Inquirer Editorial: Railway tunnel plans will help the area bloom

Posted: February 17, 2012

There's something irresistibly fascinating about the contrast created when a flower blooms atop a pile of rubble. That may be why a proposal to build a park along three miles of abandoned railroad beds, alternately running over and under the ground, is so intriguing.

The beautiful-ugly of Philadelphia's industrial past has sent imaginations soaring around the train tracks, which run roughly from Girard Avenue east of Kelly Drive to about Ninth Street and Fairmount Avenue.

Paul vanMeter and a group of like-minded urban re-imaginers have organized themselves under the banner Viaductgreene.org, and are building support for the new park, which would showcase the city's former life as a vital manufacturing hub.

People will be able to walk or cycle along the old train beds and into the underground tunnels, where they may find vendors or historical exhibits. Exactly what they find might depend on the outcome of a contest the group is organizing to collect ideas for the park's design. Plans are to launch the contest sometime next fall.

Philadelphia has previously reaped the benefits of marketing its colonial history to tourists by sprucing up Independence Mall and building the National Constitution Center. This creative attempt to look into its manufacturing years would further mine the city's rich past.

Viaductgreene is in the early stages of envisioning the park and raising funds. Such a park would complement the museum district, the refurbished Water Works, and the active scene along the Schuylkill, where families walk and picnic among cyclists and runners, and almost everyone watches the rowers.

When you add plans for a safe bike path on Spring Garden Street, linking it with the Delaware riverfront, and new development in the Lofts neighborhood, the possibilities keep growing - like a flower on a pile of rubble.

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