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Rail Park opening delayed until spring 2018

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A very old bridge is to blame

A view of construction workers standing behind an abandoned rail line.
The bridge at the 13th Street entrance to the Rail Park (shown here in 2016) has to be replaced.
Photo by Melissa Romero

Due to structural issues, Philly will have to wait a few months longer for the opening of the Rail Park.

Center City District announced Tuesday that the first phase of the quarter-mile-long, elevated park will not open in February as expected. The opening date has been pushed back to spring 2018.

Why the delay? Blame a 130-year-old bridge. Located above 13th Street, it was supposed to serve as the main pedestrian entrance to the park. But construction crews discovered that the structural beams were rusted and corroded beneath a foot of earth. The Philadelphia Streets Department determined that they needed to be replaced.

The 13th Street pedestrian bridge will be considered the primary gateway to the Rail Park.
Rendering by Studio Bryan Hanes

As a result, portions of the bridge must be removed and replaced entirely or restored. The beams will be replaced and concrete decking will be placed on top of the already existing stone walls. The goal is to reinstall some parts that are salvageable so that the bridge is in keeping with the original design by Studio Bryan Hanes.

The CCD has a construction bid out and plans to hire a contractor in late February.

“Our original construction schedule had the work being completed in February, when little would be green in the park,” said Center City District president and CEO Paul R. Levy in a statement. “Spring, however, is the perfect time to open a space for the public to enjoy.”

It’s been a long time coming for the Rail Park, which broke ground in October 2016 after about a decade or so of planning to turn the old Reading Viaduct rail line into an elevated park. Now, we’ll just have to wait a little bit longer.