A rendering  of the Ashford Dunwoody Commuter Trails.
Photo: Perimeter Improvement Community Districts
Photo: Perimeter Improvement Community Districts

Dunwoody to pitch in for ‘commuter trail’ for bikes, pedestrians

Dunwoody officials are hoping to find enough funds to build a “commuter trail” for pedestrians and cyclists in Dunwoody — intended to link MARTA riders to corporate campuses in the burgeoning employment center near Ga. 400 and I-285.

On Monday, Dunwoody City Council members unanimously approved allocating up to $125,000 from Dunwoody’s motel tax fund to help with design costs for a portion of the Ashford Dunwoody Commuter Trail. The trail would run along the busy artery while also connecting pedestrians and bicyclists to the nearby Dunwoody MARTA station.

The project will cost an estimated $1.7 million and is part of a master plan developed in 2014 by the Perimeter Community Improvement District. The district collects property taxes from businesses for infrastructure improvements.

The community improvement district was previously given $500,000 by the Atlanta Regional Commission to design the project in 2014. Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith said restrictions tied to the funds would have delayed construction to 2021. The community improvement district applied for grants to pay for the construction but has so far not been awarded any.

“With all the changes in transportation now and a need for an alternative way to get around the Perimeter, it feels like getting the project done sooner than later would be better,” Smith said at Monday night’s meeting.

Instead, the city and the district will split the cost for the design of the project, Smith said. This way the trail should be completed by the end of 2020.

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“We’ll be paying for the bulk of construction as it stands right now,” Smith said. The community improvement district would also return more than $250,000 in unused funds to the Atlanta Regional Commission.

In 2017, Dunwoody increased its hotel tax from 5 to 8 percent for the trail. Smith said at least $700,000 has been collected from the tax. Part of that money will go toward a $373,000 design contract with Gwinnett County-based engineering company Wolverton for another portion of the trail.

Talk of the trail began in 2014 when city and community improvement district officials realized there were no safe paths for pedestrians or bicyclists to commute to Dunwoody MARTA train stations.

The trail would be built in two phases. The first would stretch 2,000 feet along Ashford Dunwoody Road between Hammond Drive and Perimeter Center West. The path will be 16 feet wide and will keep bikes and pedestrians separated. A two-way path for bicycles will be 10 feet wide and the pedestrian walkway will be six feet wide.

Later plans call for extending the trail another mile and a half up Ashford Dunwoody Road to Mount Vernon Road.

The ultimate plan for the commuter trail would include similar projects along Peachtree Dunwoody Boulevard to connect Sandy Springs MARTA station to other offices. Three MARTA stations sit inside the Perimeter Business District, which includes Perimeter Mall, Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia and several shopping plazas.

“We’re trying to build a network all throughout the Perimeter,” Smith said. “Of course with the traffic in the area, we want to make it as convenient for people to have other choices to commute in and out of the area.” 

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DeKalb County residents in the area say they are getting nowhere with the county when they bring up the issue.