By John Schaffner
johnschaffner@reporternewspapers.net

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Today, the only way for North Buckhead residents to access the Buckhead MARTA station is to walk down to the Peachtree Road station entrance, take a cab or bus, or arrive on a train.

A project called the Northern Concourse is supposed to improve access to the station, but some feel a proposal for a pedestrian tunnel under the Buckhead Loop is the only easy access for those residents.

The Northern Concourse is a pedestrian bridge planned to connect the Buckhead MARTA station on Peachtree Road to Stratford Road on the east and the Tower Place complex on the west.

In the fall of 2008, North Buckhead Civic Association president Gordon Certain wrote in the association’s newsletter, “We understand that construction of the Northern Concourse will start later this year.”

That construction finally will start in the second quarter of 2011 and is projected to take about two years.

The concourse includes a pedestrian bridge crossing GA 400 – one end will service pedestrians in the Tower Place area west of 400 and the other end will service Stratford Road on the east side. A new entrance to the MARTA station will be included on the concourse. But pedestrians can also use the bridge just to cross 400.

What it means to North Buckhead residents is a potentially shorter walk to the Buckhead MARTA rail station. But that still comes with some obstacles.

Currently, there’s no way to walk from Phipps Boulevard or Phipps Plaza to the location of the Northern Concourse without creating a path through private property over sometimes rugged terrain or through parking decks and alleys.

“This lack of connectivity affects more than MARTA passengers; it reduces the usefulness and safety of a large, valuable hunk of North Buckhead,” Certain wrote in that 2008 newsletter article.

“In our newsletter article we pointed out that without changes, there will be no easy way for North Buckhead residents not living on Stratford Road to reach the new bridge,” Certain wrote in an update e-mail to his NBCA membership. “So we proposed a study of pedestrian mobility in the Stratford Road area. We subsequently discussed our ideas with Jim Durrett and Brian McHugh of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (BCID). They shared our concerns,” Certain wrote.

Certain reported that the BCID worked during this past summer with stakeholders in the area to see if there is a consensus on what to do to fix the problem.

“One of the difficulties is that the most useful pedestrian routes to the concourse involve crossing private property,” Certain said. “Making things worse, in some cases, there are chain link fences and other physical obstacles.”

One of the proposals to come out of the BCID workshop, according to Certain, is a pedestrian tunnel from the cul-de-sac on North Stratford Road (south of Old Ivy Road) under the Buckhead Loop road to Stratford Road.

“The tunnel would make the MARTA station one-half mile closer for North Stratford Road pedestrian commuters,” Certain wrote.

Certain reported in his recent e-mail that some NBCA board members “have suggested an overhead bridge might be a better option than a tunnel.” He is soliciting input from his association membership on those and other ideas.

Certain believes this may be the best, and possibly the last, opportunity to take on and seek to resolve this connectivity issue.