A proposed bridge over I-75 is just one of the ideas for the future Northwest Trail. The PATH Foundation in partnership with the Atlanta BeltLine is studying potential routes for the roughly 4.5-mile trail. (Renderings from Atlanta BeltLine Inc.)

A landmark bridge over I-75 that lights up at night. An elevated walkway through the tree canopy at Spring Valley Park. A path along Buckhead’s artsy Bennett Street.

These are some ideas for the Atlanta BeltLine’s Northwest Trail, a complex project that must navigate a major highway, active railroads and the city’s most famous street, Peachtree. Unlike other parts of the BeltLine, the northwest segment doesn’t have abandoned railroad corridors to repurpose for trails.

“Since we don’t have that abandoned rail corridor opportunity, we’re looking at destinations to help guide and frame the decisions around the pros and cons of alternate routes,” said Greta deMayo, executive director of the PATH Foundation, which is leading the study for the roughly 4.5-mile trail. The study is considering possible routes for the trail, cost estimates and in what order the trail should be built.

Monday night, deMayo unveiled new renderings of the Northwest Trail, breaking up potential routes into three study corridors. The PATH Foundation hopes to produce a preferred route by the end of the year. Watch the full meeting here. Download the presentation below.

Generally speaking, the trail would run from the northern end of the Westside Beltline Connector that’s now under construction (near the Westside Park) to the existing Northside Trail (at Tanyard Creek and Atlanta Memorial parks), extending east to the future Northeast Trail (near the Armour/Ottley district).

PATH’s study will not include future transit routes, which will require its own study. It’s likely that transit will have a separate route through much of the northwest corridor.

“There is a feasibility study that has federal funding in it that will be looking at BeltLine transit, generally between MARTA Bankhead station and the MARTA Lindbergh station,” said Shaun Green, BeltLine senior transportation engineer. He said he hopes to start the procurement process by the end of this year, but that it could happen next year. “That’s a future conversation … we are just not there yet.”

The ideas for the Northwest Trail presented Aug. 2 still have to be vetted by stakeholders and considered for factors such as right-of-way acquisition, cost and construction timeline, deMayo said. She added routes not chosen for the main BeltLine trail could be considered as spur connections in the future.

Here’s an overview of some ideas for the three study corridors:

Corridor 1

Ideas for Corridor 1 would include a trail along the Hemphill Water Treatment Plant, creating an “inviting greenway experience without impacting the operations of the treatment center,” said deMayo. The trail would come north through property owned by the Georgia Tech Foundation, abutting the active freight corridor. Then, a bridge structure would go under I-75 to a channelized portion of Tanyard Creek. “We imagine the trail as a structure running along the channelized area. It may even be possible to restore the section of the creek to a more naturalized state,” deMayo said.

Corridor 2

A trail through Corridor 2 would begin at the northern end of the Westside Beltline Connecter at Marietta Boulevard and Huff Road. The trail would run north toward Chattahoochee Avenue and Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard, crossing an existing retention pond at the Topgolf entertainment center. The trail would then need to cross I-75. “The trail is imagined as a bridge over I-75 providing a gateway experience along with exciting views and connectivity to Howell Mill district for trail users,” deMayo said. The bridge could have a “prominent profile crossing the trail, especially at night,” she added. From there, the trail would proceed to Spring Valley Park, with the vision to create a structure within the tree canopy.

Corridor 3

A trail through Corridor 3 would extend the existing trail at Bobby Jones Golf Course to the BeltLine’s future Northeast Trail near the Armour/Ottley district. A trail could run along the Peachtree Creek Apartments on the south side of Peachtree Creek. “The creek corridor offers scenic beauty and an opportunity to limited interaction with roadways,” deMayo said.

Another option would be to run the trail along the back of Buckhead’s Bennett Street, next to the Georgia Power substation. “While the backside of the retail is not particularly appealing today, we have seen property owners reorient their businesses in areas like this where the Beltline has been constructed,” deMayo said.

With both options, they would need to figure out how to cross Peachtree Road, either by a signalized crossing or by running the trail underneath Peachtree. “The active rail corridor has limited opportunity under Peachtree Road,” deMayo said. “We are investigating being able to slip under but immediately get away from the rail corridor. [It] would be the only option we would have since it’s still an active corridor.”

Amy Wenk was editor of Reporter Newspapers in 2021-22.