Shrubs and grass have grown up over the railroad ties on the Reading Viaduct; but now those tracks are coming up.
Neighbors of this spur of abandoned elevated railway through central Philadelphia see the change as a sign of progress toward their vision of transformed urban green space. Sarah McEneaney has given more tours than she can count of the tracks. Severed electric lines hang from the catenaries overhead. She points out how some of the hammered iron pegs that fasten the remaining rails have come loose.
McEneaney explains crews in trucks began arriving with equipment last month to remove the tracks.”They brought a dumpster which is full of rails,” McEneaney points out as she waves to a neighbor.Reading International, which owns the elevated track, has been in talks with the city about how to handle the railway. McEneaney thinks the city has been issuing more code violations to encourage Reading to maintain the property.
Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger says Reading began taking up the tracks on its own. Track removal must come before any environmental remediation.McEneaney’s friend, John Struble say they’re encouraged to see changes on the viaduct.”To me it’s just opening up a clean slate and I think it’s fantastic,” says Struble.The two list possibilities for the elevated line, which they envision becoming a linear public park. “Public art, dog park, bike lane,” suggests McEneaney. “Roller coaster.”
The project has inspired opposition from some other neighbors, who argue it could up the price of housing.McEneaney says the project is important for a neighborhood that lacks access to public space.