n83jJuF-sOEuLMYYFXew8atyvXbdVyZZPAMlBUyf7qkEditor’s Note: Cabbagetown resident and physician Nicki Braxley created the Boulevard Tunnel Initiative to clean up the connector between her neighborhood and the Old Fourth Ward. In her own words, she describes the latest developments, including the beautiful new mural from Living Walls.

By Nicki Braxley

As I take a look at the press kit that I created more than a year ago when the Boulevard Tunnel Initiative began, it’s hard to believe but we’re actually approaching the third phase of the project – sustainability.

The mural’s completion is huge, no doubt. And I hope most people will agree it is beautiful. Living Walls and MOMO did an absolutely amazing job. I’ve heard from multiple people that they actually drive a different route home or to work in order to pass through the tunnel and smile at the colors. We were doing an interview with Channel 2 during the mural painting when a woman approached us with two of her children. Her little boy, around the age of seven, wanted to bring jellybeans and homemade scones to the painters “because they are working so hard.” It was awesome. Another friend told me that every time she drives through the tunnel with her kids they yell, “Rainbows! Rainbows!”

Here’s the thing about the mural and the tunnel though: the long-term success of this tunnel is heavily reliant on the community’s reaction to it. The success of this project hinges on the fact that with brighter lights, a security camera, and a beautiful mural, more people will walk or bike the tunnel. The cars are great, but they’re always there, and they don’t cut down on the crime and the stairwell poop. It will take a community response of increased physical presence in order for the tunnel to stay clean.

Also, I hope that people are starting to think about this tunnel and the space in even bigger terms – working lights and pedestrian guardrails are a public safety minimum, and we had to work for a year to bring attention to these inefficiencies and get them updated. I hope the community will look at space and see its potential. We’re thinking about garbage cans, curb cuts for handicap accessibility, and a new pedestrian crosswalk in the tunnel’s future.

My family and I are moving to Rwanda in August. I’m going to be among the first faculty to teach emergency medicine in a new residency program in a country where it doesn’t currently exist. We’ll probably be back in a year, but I am handing over the reins of BTI to two amazing community members. Angela Aquino, a resident of Cabbagetown, and Donell Woodson, a resident of Old Fourth Ward, have agreed to take over and continue the BTI efforts. Already, O4W Neighbors are voting on donating $500 to the annual maintenance costs of the security camera, so I have hope that people will maintain an interest in this long neglected area. I hope the community will continue to rally around Angela and Donell and the plans they make for BTI.

For more about the Boulevard Tunnel Initiative, visit blvdtunl.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.