Join us at City Hall on Wednesday, April 16th at 12 noon to show our support for an increase in funding of $3 million for Fairmount Park and the Recreation Department. This rally is being hosted by the Philadelphia Parks Alliance. Click here for more information.
The design concept team (DCT*) carefully reviewed the comments and ideas from park users, stakeholders and neighbors gathered at last fall’s meeting and surveys on the three alternative alignments, and also studied several other potential alternatives that involved structures outside of Schuylkill River Park. Upon this review, the DCT concluded that the “yellow” or “west border” alignment was the most feasible and best met the needs of the project and the community’s concerns.
The ‘yellow” alignment runs along the western edge of the Schuylkill River Park over the CSX tracks to Schuylkill Banks in a south to north line. This bridge, in addition to serving as an above grade crossing, will provide an additional access point between the river and Schuylkill Banks to Schuylkill River Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. It will fulfill the original conception of Schuylkill River Park as connecting the city to the riverfront.
Please note that the accompanying picture is only an alignment, not a final design treatment. The engineering firm HNTB will now prepare a preliminary design taking into considerations the public’s comments in addition to the features recommended in the 2006 Master Plan developed by Friends of Schuylkill River Park.
A park user wrote in to us about seeing a large owl in the vicinity of the Locust Street crossing. She/he writes "At dusk this evening (Jan. 9), my sons and I were amazed to see a large owl flying low across the grassy area and then perch itself for 30+ minutes in a tree where the red proposal would be built. Such a wonder of nature to observe in our park with a handful of children. It seemed that this tree may be a regular stop for this particular owl. This is the first owl I have seen during the many years I have played in the park and walked along the river. Enjoy. Peace." If anyone else sees an owl or other unusual wildlife sightings at Schuylkill River Park, please write in to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here!
Locust Street Crossing Gets "Improved"
In an effort to make a good situation better, on New Year's Day the Schuylkill River Park Alliance (SRPA) set out to make the Locust Street crossing a smoother experience. SRPA Board members Perry Benson and Russell Meddin heaved, dumped and spread sand (donated by Schuylkill River Development Corp.) over the large bluestone rocks between the crossing paving and the trail. They also filled in a large puddle on the street side of the tracks. Hopefully, this "patch" will hold until we can convince the City and CSX to find a way to put down some temporary paving. The hitch is that the alignment of the Locust Street crossing is not on City property and some kind of agreement needs to be struck before the City will put down temporary paving. Let us know what you think of the smoother surface!
Answering Your Frequently Asked Questions
Why must the connector bridge be built? The settlement agreement between CSX and the City of Philadelphia calls for the two grade crossings to be “improved” (with automatic gates that close the crossings when trains approach or are parked) within 24 months (April 2009) and that an above grade crossing be built within 30 months (October 2009). CSX only agreed to allow the Locust Street crossing to be improved and made a legal grade crossing as long as an overpass was also constructed by the City. CSX wants an additional above grade crossing to give park users an alternative entrance and exit if by chance the Locust street level crossing is closed. CSX understood that the Walnut Street bridge stairs and the future South Street ramp would be available, but stood firm on its demand for an additional above grade crossing. The settlement agreement is under the jurisdiction of Federal Judge Bruce Kaufman and if the above grade crossing is not constructed, it is likely that CSX will go back to court. For more answers about other connection options, see our website’s Connector Bridge page.
Why is the Locust Street crossing only partially paved? The path of the current crossing at Locust Street is on CSX’s property. The City’s right-of-way of Locust Street actually traverses the tracks a little to the south of the current crossing (to the other opening in the fence). For the paving to be completed, CSX and the City are currently defining their responsibilities. We are trying to bring about some kind of arrangement to make the rest of the paving possible.
When will the JFK Bridge work be completed? The current construction schedule calls for the work to be completed and the bridge reopened in February 2009.
Will the park north of Race Street be landscaped? Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC) reported to Schuylkill River Park Alliance that some delays were encountered in the acquisition of permits and approvals for this project, which we wrote about in Issue 2 of Reaching the Hidden River. These problems have been resolved and completed plans should be ready for the bidding process soon. Construction is scheduled for Summer 2008.
How many people use the park? Based on data collected for SRDC, the trail has 2,500 user trips a day (averaged out over year). Runners, bicyclists and walkers use the trail in roughly the same amounts, although the runners slightly outnumber bicyclists and walkers.
To prevent congestion, will the trail have more directional striping? Yes, Fairmount Park is planning to paint additional stripes on the path to help keep people moving to the right so to avoid collisions. This will most likely occur in spring of 2008.
Park Connector Bridge -- Public Comments are In
The online evaluation and survey, plus emails sent directly to the design consultant have been compiled. In summary, the outcome of this public engagement process is as follows: · November Public meeting was attended by 120 persons · In total, over 500 people submitted comments and evaluations on the three bridge alignments. · Comments and evaluation results can be read on our Connector Bridge page · From the comments and evaluations of the three options presented to date, the "west border" (or yellow) option received the most favorable comments and evaluations, the red and the green options in their current forms had the least favorable comments or evaluations. The Design Concept Team* is continuing to explore options and will keep you informed. *The Design Concept Team consists of the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia Streets and Commerce Departments, Friends of Schuylkill River Park, Schuylkill River Park Alliance, Center City Residents Association, University of Pennsylvania, and the Pew Charitable Trusts. You are welcome to make a comment on this process and these results.
The online evaluation and survey, plus emails sent directly to the design consultant have been compiled. In summary, the outcome of this public engagement process is as follows:
· November Public meeting was attended by 120 persons
· In total, over 500 people submitted comments and evaluations on the three bridge alignments.
· Comments and evaluation results can be read on our Connector Bridge page
· From the comments and evaluations of the three options presented to date, the "west border" (or yellow) option received the most favorable comments and evaluations, the red and the green options in their current forms had the least favorable comments or evaluations. The Design Concept Team* is continuing to explore options and will keep you informed.
*The Design Concept Team consists of the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia Streets and Commerce Departments, Friends of Schuylkill River Park, Schuylkill River Park Alliance, Center City Residents Association, University of Pennsylvania, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
You are welcome to make a comment on this process and these results.
Park Connector Bridge -- November 4th Meeting Attended by over 120
A large turnout of near neighbors and park users came to the public meeting held to get feedback on three alignment options for the connector bridge slated to be built by October 29th as part of the CSX-City settlement agreement. Each alignment was described and then critiqued for its advantages and disadvantages. Renderings of each alignment will be posted (as soon as we get them), along with an online survey, so that people will more of an opportunity to make comments if they were not able to attend the meeting, or have additional comments to make. You are also welcome to make comments on the alignment options, or on the public outreach process here on this blog.
We Got A New Name!
Thanks to lots of input from park users who responded to our mid-July survey, we took the giant step of renaming ourselves to convey our mission of advocating for Park users who enjoy Philadelphia's Schuylkill River Park Trail. Going forward, we are calling ourselves Schuylkill River Park Alliance. In the coming months we will be launching a new website with our new url www.riverparkalliance.org
We will be focusing on the section of the Schuylkill River south of the Fairmount Dam. We will serve as a voice for park users and an advocate for stewardship of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River Park Trail as it gets built from the Art Museum down to Bartram's Garden and ultimately Fort Mifflin. In particular, we want to ensure that safe connections are made between the Park and all neighborhoods.
Moving Forward on the Crossings
As part of our ongoing effort to make sure that the street level crossings are made safe for everyone while the settlement agreement is implemented by the City and CSX, we sent the Streets Department today a list of items that we think are important to be incorporated into the design of the two crossings. These items include keeping the gates in an open position when no train is in the vicinity, making the crossings wider and to install a notification system located at key points inside and outside the Park that could warn park users if a crossing is blocked so they can take alternative routes before arriving at the crossings. These items constitute a "wish list" and we look forward to working them out with the Streets Department as the design gets underway.
As part of that memo, we also asked the Streets Department to finish (in the near term) the surfacing of the crossings between the streets, the trail and the new paving laid down by CSX in early August. If the City can finish the paving, all park users, especially those in wheelchairs and parents pushing strollers, will have good access into and out of the Park.
Wow! Real asphalt! CSX improved upon its previous improvement (made in June at our request) by laying down asphalt on its property between the crossings and the path and streets. We saw it on Race Street and on Locust. Thank you CSX for making the crossing experience even easier on the feet and seat! Now that CSX took the first step, it is time to connect the path to the Street!
Want to tell CSX how much you like the asphalt on the crossings? Make a comment below. We'll get the comments to the CSX VP responsible for making this happen!
Hollywood on the Schuylkill!
If you happened to see a camera crew interviewing people on Saturday, July 28th around the Park throughout the day, you were witnessing the first independent documentary video in the making about the Free Schuylkill River Park campaign. Never before did we realize how noisy it is out in Park. Between helicopters, sirens, trains and car crashes on the Expressway, many takes had to be repeated. The seven minute documentary video is being produced by Rob Stuart of Evolve Strategies and directed by Tara Nurin. Look for it to be put online in the very near future!
CSX DOES GOOD A GOOD DEED--THANK YOU CSX!!
As you may have noticed, the crossings that were the subject of so much controversy between us, the City of Philadelphia and CSX are at long last beginning to look more and more like real pedestrian crossings!
In early June, we sat down with CSX executives in Philadelphia to go over various issues regarding the settlement agreement. We asked CSX is they could put some kind of rock or sand filler down to help bikers, moms with strollers, roller bladers and wheel chair users get over the tracks until the new crossing technology is put into place. As you may recall, it was a pretty bumby ride getting over the tracks.
In response to our request, CSX took the opportunity to put down real, live, rubber crossing panels over both sets of tracks at each crossing. It is a joy to see them! Way to go CSX! Thanks!
We've uploaded more pictures into the photo album "Access Better on Crossing Panels".
Boat trip to Art By Architects show at Bartram's Garden
We had a great turn out for the Thursday evening boat ride to the Art By Architects show. Nearly 70 people turned out for the boat ride, whose proceeds will benefit AIA's Center for Architecture and Free Schuylkill River Park. The evening was lovely and the entire event was enjoyed by all.
Things have been quiet these days on the Banks. The ice and snow of February are gone and the cold winds of March are blowing. We're still waiting to hear from the City when the "approval process" is going to finish so that a signing of the negotiated agreement can occur. Meanwhile, CSX installed some bright new banners with its "Keep On Living" logo at the Race and Locust Street crossings.
FANTASTIC NEWS!! Tentative Agreement in the Works
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.
By sending emails, making phone calls, signing the petitions, coming to rallies and hearings, and by using the Park in overwhelming numbers, everyone who participated in this campaign helped convinced CSX to keep open the most popular access points into the Park.
This is a case of a community standing its ground and winning. If you took action to help get this agreement reached, thank you and congratulations!