City to transform long-abandoned Northwest Philly trestle into recreation path

An out-of-service train trestle above Germantown Avenue is now on track to become part of a long dreamed-of recreation path connecting Philadelphia and Montgomery County.

Earlier this fall, the city verbally agreed to take ownership of the trestle and lease a connected right-of-way. PECO currently owns both stretches, which sit near the border between Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill.

“That was big,” said Mt. Airy resident Ken Weinstein, who helped broker the deal. “It’s really a legal matter and a City Council matter at this point.”

What’s next

An ordinance is needed to finalize the trestle transfer.

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The trestle has long been viewed as a key component of the Cresheim Valley Trail, which, if completed, would enable bikers and joggers to travel between Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park and Cheltenham Township in Montgomery County.

In Northwest Philadelphia, the trestle and the right-of-way, which the city would lease for 25 years, would provide trail users with a safer way to travel between Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill.

“These are two communities that are very closely linked, but if you want to bike or walk between the two you have a choice of four high-speed roads,” said Susan Dannenberg, board chair of The Friends of the Cresheim Trail, referencing McCallum Street, Germantown Avenue, Cresheim Valley Drive and Stenton Avenue.

Mark Focht, the first deputy commissioner for Parks and Recreation, said the city hopes to have a City Council ordinance introduced sometime in the spring and have it passed before the body breaks for summer recess in June.

Associated costs

Once the transfer is complete, the fundraising can begin. Focht said the city is “committed to the project,” but that “there’s no money identified for it yet.”

Weinstein estimates that will take $350,000 to create a recreation path on the trestle and another $100,000 to complete a gateway mural he hopes can be painted on the sides of the span.

“A lot of the money will have to be donated by local residents and businesses,” said Weinstein, adding that “it’s a project that people in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill will come together on.”

Focht said, realistically, the project will take between three and six years to complete.

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