The new segment of the Schuylkill River Trail is now open for business. The 1,400-foot extension leads the trail from South Street to Christian Street with a thoughtful balance of wide pavement, comfortable benches, and pocket overlooks that provide a relaxing view of our “hidden river.” A pedestrian bridge connecting the foot path to CHOP’s Roberts Center for Pediatric Research public plaza on South Street affords trail users unhindered views of path activity, a fleet of crude oil trains, and the growing West Philadelphia skyline. The $5 million segment was designed by landscape architecture studio Ground Reconsidered, $1.5 million of which was spent on top soil, irrigation, and planting. The design of the extension is attractive now, but it won’t show its true colors until the greenery begins to fill in this summer.
Did I mention there are oil trains? Scores and scores of crude oil trains as far as the eyes can see. They’ve been hiding in the brush there all along, but now command center stage. Perhaps the City will one day find another way to get these “bomb trains” to the refineries of Philadelphia Energy Solutions. Until then, we are saddled with an unsettling public health risk stalking one of the best urban trails in the country. Enjoy the new addition, but keep your eyes to the river, your emergency alerts enabled, and your shoelaces tied.
Oiled up with anxiety on the new segment of the Schuylkill River Trail. Photographs by Michael Bixler.