[Editor’s note: Representative Anulewicz contacted the Courier to emphasize that there is no official announcement on CSX’s Silver Comet track at this point, and that the quote from her only referred to the announcement regarding the details of the state’s lease with CSX. We will update the story as more information becomes available and provide further correction or clarification if needed — the Editor]
Official word is expected in the next few days on the Silver Comet Trail extension toward Atlanta.
The famous 61.5-mile bike trail has sat unfinished for years, halting in front of the Publix on South Cobb Drive. But after a series of negotiations at the state capitol, the trail could soon extend east to the Chattahoochee River and Atlanta city limits, possibly further.
“It’s imminent,” said Teri Anulewicz (D – Smyrna), during a Connect the Comet stakeholder meeting Sunday evening at Vinings Bank. “The lease is signed and an announcement is coming.”
While nothing is official as of this writing, speculation has been mounting that an official announcement is on the way. Just 6.2 miles separate the Silver Comet from planned Atlanta Beltline routes, and CSX Corp., which owns rights to the trail, has been negotiating a new lease with the state of Georgia. Anulewicz said Governor Nathan Deal hopes to finish the process before the end of his term.
Connect the Comet has been advocating since at least 2013 for the extension, contacting politicians, handing out t-shirts and delivering a petition to Deal’s office last year. Earlier this summer, CtC members handed out information and shirts during Atlanta Streets Alive.
Cobb County recently approved a trail plan including the Silver Comet extension, and commission chairman Mike Boyce has been spotted sporting a Connect the Comet t-shirt.
What’s unknown at this point is just how far the add-on will go, and which route it will take. Anulewicz said it’s unlikely that all six miles come online at once. The route itself could also be forced to leave the old train route, especially east of Plant Atkinson Road.
Atlanta banker and CtC Managing Director Wendell Burks indicated that the Cobb County side may be announced first. There are more variables on the Atlanta side of the river, including potential MARTA extensions, CSX rail still in use, and Beltline land purchases still to be made.
As a side effect, Burks warned members of the group that, even though support appears widespread, dissent may be on the way once the news becomes official.
“The opposition will show up,” he said. “There will always be NIMBYs, those who say ‘not in my back yard.’”
Even without a full link, any addition to the Silver Comet represents a huge win for Connect the Comet, with effects reaching beyond joggers and cyclists.
“The Silver Comet Trail is an economic juggernaut in and of itself,” said Anulewicz, noting its boost to real estate and development. She predicted more new trails to come, and that one day, bikers will ride straight from Kennesaw Mountain to Ponce City Market.
The extension will be a win for trail and transit activists across metro Atlanta, and even for the movers and shakers under the Gold Dome, according to Anulewicz.
“Everybody on both sides of the negotiation is so ready for this to be done,” she said.