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April 13, 2018

Philly's Rail Park to open this summer

A 130-year-old railroad bridge must first be renovated

Parks Rail Park
Carroll - Rail Park High Line Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Philadelphia's elevated Rail Park before the start of a day of service, Friday, Oct. 13, 2017.

The first phase of Philadelphia's much-anticipated Rail Park is expected to open in early June after renovations are completed on a 130-year-old railroad bridge, the Center City District announced on Friday morning.

The park initially was slated to open this spring, but questions regarding the structural integrity of the bridge have delayed its opening. The bridge will serve as the primary entrance to the park, which is being constructed on the former Reading Railroad viaduct in Callowhill.

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The Center City District, which has spearheaded fundraising efforts for the Rail Park, decided to renovate the bridge rather than demolish and rebuild it. That option is expected to save both time and money, enabling the Rail Park to open this summer.

Earlier this year, the Streets Department raised questions about rust and corrosion on the bridge's structure beams.

The Center City District initially intended to demolish and rebuild the bridge. But its design and engineering team, Urban Engineers, later concluded that the stone and steel structure would be safe for pedestrian traffic if additional supports are added.

The added supports will increase the load rating of the bridge. Annual inspections will be completed to ensure its safety.

The first phase of the Rail Park will stretch a quarter-mile from Broad and Noble streets to the 1000 block of Callowhill Street. The park, modeled after New York City's High Line, will span 25,000 square feet.

Eventually, the Center City District intends to extend the segment by adding another mile along the viaduct to Fairmount Avenue and Ninth Street. 

At its grandest vision, the park could extend westward through a below-street-level stretch known as The Viaduct and an underground stretch known as the Tunnel.

Construction on the first phase began in October 2016.

Last fall, volunteers planted 18 canopy trees along the Rail Park, its first bit of landscaping. Another 1,100 plants also were added.

Since then, AP Construction – the prime contractor – has continued installing benches, platforms, trees, walkways and lighting.