Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Philadelphia notches much needed victory over CSX and their trains full of shit

CSX no masNot sure why, but we couldn’t help but feel a little blue recently. Probably a combination of things the holidays bearing down, the impending invasion of the crapsinos, Murderdelphia closing in on 400, Allen Iverson leaving for Denver — basically, times were tough. We were desperate for some good news.

Luckily our dejection was short lived.

After three long years, it appears that the fine folks over at Free Schuylkill River Park have finally won some frickin' hard fought freedom. CSX, a freight rail company that had vowed to cut Center City residents off from their own park if it was the last thing they ever did, finally succumbed to reason and agreed to allow pedestrian, grade-level crossings into the park at both Locust and Race Streets.

Finally, there is a tentative agreement about the crossings. While it has not yet been completely finalized, CSX has agreed to permit the installation of at-grade crossings at both Race and Locust Streets and to facilitate funding a pedestrian bridge connecting the two Schuylkill River Parks below Locust Street. CSX has also agreed to reroute its garbage-only trains. The tentative agreement is currently is in the final stages of the City's approval process.
It wasn't easy, however.
Citing safety concerns, CSX had vowed never to allow pedestrians to cross its tracks, which run parallel to Schuylkill River Park, a recreational path that runs parallel to the river on Center City's western edge.

Its trains are often parked next to the path, and pedestrians attempt to climb over or under them - a very dangerous shortcut. So CSX wanted to fence off the tracks entirely.

But that would restrict access to the park. And that was a very bad thing, given how the park had become a beloved, much-used riverfront jewel.

For nearly three years, both sides fought. A lawsuit, staged protests and testy City Council hearings ensued. And it looked like neither side would budge in a fight pitting the city against a corporate behemoth whose Florida executives didn't seem to care how their operations were impeding civic life in Philly.

A break finally came when CSX figured out that if they added a short stretch of track - just 1,000 feet - about a mile north of the park, the railroad could divert some traffic to another set of tracks, relieving congestion that caused so many cars to idle along the park.
Seriously, this is kind of a big deal. Along with public education and public transportation, green space access and similar consistently environmentally-friendly policies are going to be some of the most important infrastructure investments/enhancements that successful 21st-century cities can make.

Green Plan PhiladelphiaTha'’s why we're thrilled with City Hall for going ahead with a bold new initiative to create a blueprint for sustainable open space in Philadelphia for the decades to come.

Green Plan Philadelphia is exactly the kind of governing Philadelphia (leaders and voters) has to embrace if it ever is going to overcome its singular image as a post-industrial stopover between New York and DC.

Because, really, it already is… and it can still be so much more.

Visions of safe, at-grade crossings dance in their heads [Free Schuylkill River Park]
Good call CSX — no flaming bags of poo for you this year [Daily News]
Green Plan Philadelphia: if it's not green, it's crap [Green Plan Philadelphia]

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