Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Reading Viaduct

At top: the Reading Viaduct, and at bottom, highlighted,
the City Branch Cut

From time to time, the Reading Viaduct Project makes the blogosphere rounds. It's a beautiful-sounding idea: turn an abandoned old embankment-and-trestle system, the former station lead for the Reading Terminal, into a park-in-the-sky à la James Corner's High Line. New kids on the block Viaduct Greene even suggest extending this park into the attached City Branch Cut.

For the most part, I like this idea. Both of the Viaduct sites are on my blogroll, after all. Callowhill has a lack of usable parkland, and the trestle section, while obsolete for railroad purposes, is still usable for other forms of transportation--bike networks, say. While Viaduct Greene's sunken section is definitely overkill, in large part because Philadelphia2050 (which, remember, this blog is dedicated to) suggests that the northern side of the Center City loop should be routed through it, the historic nature of this cut as the former right-of-way of Noble Street suggests that its continued use as a transportation artery--a bikeway connecting with the Viaduct--is still a viable idea.

But there are all sorts of other givens and druthers (as the Viaduct Greene folks are keen on saying). Callowhill is still largely un-redeveloped and still feels "unsafe". There is little money for new park investment, and funding priorities should be pumped into the underfunded existing system first, especially when the site is Superfund; and finally, the Chinatown CDC is dead set on bulldozing at least a part of it (something I'm against).

All I'm saying is that it's a good idea, but I would want to see funds raised privately first, and to see a CDC or two support it. It would still take at least a decade to happen, but Callowhill needs a decade to further grow.

EDIT 5/24: Landbank it!


  1. A thoughtful student initiative. But, PAVE VIADUCTgreene?? for a busway? ? ? ? .... " The point of Philadelphia2050 is that it will allow one to get from anywhere in the Philadelphia metropolitan area to anywhere else, quickly and easily--without a car. " So, why sacrifice a beautiful, green, historically relevant, story-telling, place-making, connective corridor that could serve bicyclists and pedestrians ? If the idea is getting from one place to another without a car, then close a street or two...or three, or four! Oh, Planners!

  2. 1. It's NOT a busway! My proposal is to use the sunken cut as a subway line, and then to layer an at-grade bikeway on top of it.

    2. The only reason why it's green today is because it's abandoned. It was historically a rail corridor and Philadelphia2050 uses it as a handy, inexpensive, rail corridor. Because of the fruits of the City Branch cut and the Pennsylvania Avenue tunnel, I'm able to take a big bite out of tunneling costs for the Loop and the Andorra line all the way from Broad to Girard--this, by the way, amounting to just short of the entirety of this line's Phase I. And again, a greenway can be provided right on top. It would cost as much as any other capping project.

    Again, I reiterate: The City Branch and the Viaduct are two different animals. The City Branch still has use in ways the Viaduct doesn't. And the Viaduct is more picturesque, too. The heart is the Viaduct...the City Branch is more complex and requires more thought. I believe my solution is an optimal compromise between the different transportation needs along the former Noble St. corridor.

    And no buses, either. A busway is much too unsophisticated this close to Center City.