Astra Group, a construction company based in Woodstock, Georgia, which was building the Historic Fourth Ward Park, won the contract to build the Eastside Trail, breaking ground late in 2010.
The trail took two years to complete, since, in addition to the retaining walls, bridge repair and construction, and landscaping, it required substantial environmental cleanup. The Astra crew ran into unanticipated problems – a slope that collapsed into a parking lot, storm sewers under the former rail line that were not on any map, eroded pipes that leaked water into the right of way. “The abandoned rail corridor was everyone’s back door, so industrial users and tenants just dumped stuff there,” the Astra CEO said. Where Freedom Parkway crossed the trail, the construction crew ran into a buried trash pit of broken concrete, wood, and asphalt shingles – probably homes that had been destroyed in anticipation of the raised expressway that was stopped by neighborhood activists.
The total cost, which included $750,000 from Trees Atlanta for the BeltLine arboretum plantings, topped $12 million – far more than the original $5 million estimate – and over half had to come out of the TAD bond money, since there were no matching federal funds. Even at the price of $6 million per mile of trail, the Eastside Trail was built with very few access points. For instance, even though it ran next to the Historic Fourth Ward Park, which was under construction on its western side, there was no official connecting trail. Nor was there any lighting for night use.