Reading Removing Viaduct Rails

 

Photo: Peter Woodall

The Reading Company is removing the ties and track and clearing the Reading Viaduct of its spontaneous landscape so cherished by urban explorers and park dreamers.

“While we were shocked at first,” says Reading Viaduct Project organizer Sarah McEneaney, “removing the rails, the ties and clearing the area would cost a lot of money if the city was doing it. The ties are pretty toxic. We do know that the catenarys are staying.”

Park advocates say the rail removal has been long in the works, but possibly expedited because of a planned first phase park on the street-accessible “SEPTA spur.” Reading is using the spur–the only grade connection along the Viaduct–for machinery and labor access to the site. Funding is in place for design of a park on the SEPTA spur; advocates hope construction will begin next year.

“We’re obviously very disappointed and sorry we didn’t organize sooner or more effectively to save the rails,” says Paul Van Meter of ViaductGreene, the group advocating for combining an elevated viaduct park with the submerged rail bed that runs west to the Rodin Museum, for a combined 3 mile linear park.

“It’s particularly disappointing because last Monday in New York, the High Line unveiled its phase 3 plan–to leave rails and keep the naturally-appearing landscape, what we find to be a fiscally responsible approach and what we thought was a valid option for at least some of the Viaduct.”

But Van Meter and McEneaney both concede that most of the rails would have to have been taken up anyway. Van Meter estimates the rails to be worth about $200,000; he is pleased to see they aren’t being melted down, but simply unbolted. Though disposition of the rails is unclear, the hope is that some of them can be acquired and incorporated in park design. Van Meter says it’s also still possible that the rails and the landscape above Spring Garden Street, in the most open and wild section of the Viaduct, can remain.

Meanwhile, with city and SEPTA officials behind them, both groups are gearing up for next steps, including raising project funds. The Reading Viaduct Project has held three community meetings for the SEPTA spur and ViaductGreene continues to sell the idea of a 3 mile linear park. Van Meter says they’d like to do greening projects in the Callowhill neighborhood that will link thematically to the Viaduct above.

“Onward and upward,” he says.

About the author

Nathaniel Popkin is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including the forthcoming Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (Temple Press) and a novel, Lion and Leopard (The Head and the Hand Press). He is the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."



5 Comments


  1. Sell the spikes for a $20 each donation.

  2. Could it possibly be that the most evolved, successful and financially responsible design goal is not to “design something cool…but to experience what’s really cool, which is the context?” It should remain an option!

    “It will feel completely different—and much wilder—than the first two phases. It’s what we always wanted, what we envisioned at the beginning. I think people will really love it.”“It will feel completely different—and much wilder—than the first two phases. It’s what we always wanted, what we envisioned at the beginning. I think people will really love it.” “It will feel completely different—and much wilder—than the first two phases. It’s what we always wanted, what we envisioned at the beginning. I think people will really love it.” -Robert Hammond

    “Modesty would be its real power” -James Corner

    “…At first, it seemed like a huge let down. This part of the High Line, with the most spacious views of the Hudson River, is, in many ways, the pinnacle moment of the project. And yet, Corner was saying nothing would be designed? The notion seemed quite disappointing and, the moment read as a missed opportunity. Corner went on to explain that the hope was that “Modesty would be its real power” as the final loop of the project would allow people to be on the authentic High Line and the real design goal was not to “design something cool…but [to allow people to experience] what’s really cool, which is the context.” And, Corner is right. It would seem superficial if DS+R and Corner tried to modify their auditorium seating or their peel up furniture planters for this space. It would become just another variation with no defining characteristic. In fact, the lack of designed elements brings the space a sense of natural peace – a real escape from the city that exists as it was meant to be – and a space that we cannot wait to experience.”

  3. Photos of before the rail demolition (2010/2011). Looks like it’s the only book in print on Philadelphia’s Reading Viaduct

    http://www.amazon.com/Philadelphias-Reading-Viaduct-Jamie-Moffett/dp/B004Q6VCKQ

Trackbacks

  1. Philadelphia's Reading Viaduct: An Elevated Park Connecting Neighborhoods
  2. Scrapping and clearing the Reading Viaduct landscape
  3. Viaduct Phase I: Design Visions For The SEPTA Spur | Hidden City Philadelphia
  4. Rails. Baldwin, our Place. | viaductgreene blog
  5. Rails. Baldwin, our Place. – VIADUCTgreene
  6. Philadelphia’s Reading Viaduct gets the ‘High Line’ treatment | SmartPlanet
  7. The Future of the Reading Viaduct: First Renderings Released

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Without Remediation, Diamond In The Rough A Risky Play

Without Remediation, Diamond In The Rough A Risky Play

September 22, 2017  |  Vantage

How safe is safe enough? Environmental researcher Coryn Wolk explores the potential public health risks at a youth baseball field built on top of an industrial alloy production site surrounded by an oil refining complex > more

Wayne Junction Moves Forward With Revitalization

Wayne Junction Moves Forward With Revitalization

September 20, 2017  |  News

Developer Ken Weinstein unveils transit-oriented development plans for Wayne Junction district. GroJLart has the story > more

Inside Northeast Philly's Temple Of Ryerss

Inside Northeast Philly’s Temple Of Ryerss

September 19, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. takes us on a fall field trip to the Ryerss Mansion, an eccentric, little-known house museum in the Great Northeast > more

Unlisted Philadelphia: Locust Theatre

Unlisted Philadelphia: Locust Theatre

September 14, 2017  |  Unlisted Philadelphia

Ben Leech spotlights unique and significant buildings not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places with his architectural illustration series, Unlisted Philadelphia. In this installment, a marvelous movie house in West Philly > more

Monument Lab: A City-Wide Art Museum That Asks Us To

Monument Lab: A City-Wide Art Museum That Asks Us To “Leave Fingerprints”

September 13, 2017  |  Vantage

We ought to write our own history, say the organizers of Monument Lab, who launch their multi-week public art and civic introspection festival today in the wake of Charlottesville, Dallas, and Durham. Nathaniel Popkin catches up with Monument Lab founder Paul Farber, who asks us all, "What is an appropriate monument for Philadelphia today?" > more

An Original Keeps It Classy On Chestnut Street

An Original Keeps It Classy On Chestnut Street

September 12, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

From furniture and furnace manufacturing to a 1980s video arcade, 1606 Chestnut Street has kept busy for 127 years. The Shadow has the details on this Center City standout > more