In 1992, PATH was less than a year old and the Olympics were headed to metro Atlanta. We proposed to develop the Atlanta to Stone Mountain Trail as a way of connecting the Olympic venues in downtown Atlanta and at Georgia Tech to the cycling venue at Stone Mountain Park. We discovered the remnants of an old trolley right-of way roughly following Ponce deLeon Avenue that was, for the most part, owned by DeKalb County. The parts that had been obliterated were challenging to reassemble for a group who had never assembled right-of-way or built a trail before. No segment was more challenging than the gap created by I-285 and the ramps to Church Street.
With time running short and money running shorter, the County, PATH, and GDOT decided the trail would stop at Glendale Road and resume at Norman Road where the trolley right-of-way was intact. In between, folks would have to join traffic to cross I-285 and the two exit-ramps on the Church Street bridge. Since 1996, attempts by PATH and DeKalb County to fill the gap by building a separate trail bridge over I-285 on railroad right-of-way have been thwarted, until now.
In a couple of months, the PATH/ DeKalb County partnership will build a trail bridge over I-285 between the railroad and Church Street to fill in the missing section of the Stone Mountain PATH. In addition, the County recently purchased the car lot on Church Street just east of Northern Avenue to facilitate extending the PATH from Northern Avenue to Rowland Street at Lovejoy Street. PATH will partner with the City of Clarkston to improve Rowland Street from Lovejoy to Norman, including an upgrade of the crossing at North Indian Creek.
This connection has been more than twenty years in the making. Negotiations with CSX Railroad to build a trail bridge between their rail line and Church Street went nowhere until DeKalb County agreed to condemn the sliver of property needed for the trail in 2015. As a direct result of the County’s action, CSX decided to compromise and allow the trail alongside the active rail to get trail users over I-285. As part of the compromise, PATH and DeKalb County agreed to abandon the plan to build the trail alongside the active rail through Clarkston and improve the connection to and along Rowland Street instead.
A good bid was received for the bridge project in February. Work on this segment should begin in May after power lines above the work area are relocated. If all goes well, the Stone Mountain PATH will bridge I-285 into Clarkston before year end. Many thanks to the DeKalb County Commissioners and the DeKalb County Law Department for persevering. This was not an easy thing to do. Soon the scary trek across the Church Street Bridge over I-285 will be a distant memory.