July 12, 2017
The cleanup of a stretch of railroad tracks in Kensington known for harboring heroin users and dealers never got underway Monday as scheduled. A Philadelphia spokesperson said Tuesday that the city hopes to have the cleanup started next week.
Last month, city officials announced they had come to an agreement with Conrail, which owns the tracks, to clean and secure the Gurney Street railroad gulch in Kensington, known as El Campamiento.
The area has been considered the epicenter of the city's drug trade.
Conrail, which provides rail service for CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern, was set to start the cleanup Monday. But reports surfaced that day that city officials were told the railroad needed more time to get ready.
Under the agreement, the cleanup can start no later than July 31, City Communications Director Lauren Hitt said. She said the city is ready to start the cleanup and would like to get it going as early as next week.
Hitt deferred questions to Conrail about what needed to be done to prepare the railroad for the cleanup.
The work involves clearing the railroad of needles, vegetation and other debris.
City officials said last month they would provide barriers, transport and dispose of trash, as well as removing homeless heroin users from the site. The city said it would provide those individuals with medical care and drug treatment services. In exchange for Conrail's cooperation, the city would also dismiss pending citations against the company.
"While Conrail works to clean, secure and maintain its property, we are going to be focused on helping the individuals who frequent the area along those tracks get into treatment and supportive housing," Philadelphia Managing Director Mike DiBerardinis said at the time.
DiBernardinis called the delay a "bump in the road" in a Newsworks story this week.
Last year, 17 people were found dead from overdoses along the mile-and-a-half stretch of tracks, and first responders provided another 29 emergency medical rescues.
Mayor Jim Kenney gave Conrail an ultimatum in April, declaring that the company had failed to act on "hazardous conditions on its property."