The official overseeing PATH400’s construction is questioning the effectiveness of a proposed bridge connecting several multiuse paths in the Lindbergh area, leading the Buckhead Community Improvement District to delay a co-funding decision.
The “Confluence Bridge,” designed by the South Fork Conservancy, would be constructed at the confluence of PATH400, the BeltLine and Brookhaven’s Peachtree Creek Greenway at an expected cost of $2.38 million.
The conservancy is building multiuse trails along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek, which runs between Buckhead and Emory University. It unveiled a design for a bridge at the confluence of those trails in April.
The BCID board on Sept. 26 chose to hold off on a decision about providing some funding after Denise Starling questioned the bridge’s ability to handle crowds. Starling is executive director of Livable Buckhead and is overseeing PATH400.
The bridge is planned to be 8 feet wide, but the BCID had committed funding in the hope the conservancy would widen it by two feet to better match trails in that area. The trails that would feed into the bridge range in width from 10 to 14 feet.
Kimberly Estep, the executive director of the South Fork Conservancy said a wider bridge could still be possible, but fundraising would have to match the large increase in construction costs.
“As an organization, we would like to build the widest bridge possible,” Estep said. “We know we could go a little bit bigger, but the cost would be a lot more.”
Site limitations and increased work that would be needed to accommodate the added weight would add to the already increased construction costs, Estep said.
“It’s not just a simple equation,” she said.
BCID Executive Director Jim Durrett and Starling disagreed on what funding the BCID should offer now that the bridge’s design likely won’t be widened.
“I believe it is important for us to move forward in a collaborative way to achieve at least this connection down there,” Durrett said.
The BCID approved $200,000 at a July 25 meeting to fund widening the bridge, designed by the South Fork Conservancy. Starling believes the widening is necessary for the path to handle the expected traffic.
Starling said she believes widening is necessary to accommodate anticipated use and said funding should not be contributed if that’s not in the plans.
“Ten feet is the absolute minimum. It is going to be a bottleneck,” she said.
The funding was contingent on the conservancy raising the remaining needed funds for the estimated construction cost of $2.38 million.
“They haven’t raised all the money. They still have a ways to go. Us putting this money in makes the reach a little bit easier,” Durrett said.
Although the bridge would be outside the BCID’s official boundaries, Durrett said the district is allowed to fund design and engineering of projects as long as they would serve the district.
The BCID board chose to wait to make a decision until the conservancy raises more money and it becomes clear if it is needed or not.
Estep said the conservancy continues to look for Buckhead donations because it would improve trail access in that area.
“We are looking for local community partners to help this bridge become a reality because it would bring access to Buckhead,” she said.