August 16, 2009
A few weeks ago I went to NYC to visit my friend Megan and she took me to the new High Line park. They took an old, no longer used, elevated rail line and converted it into a walking park. The first phase just opened not too long ago. It’s really nice and a great way to utilize an old structure that was just sitting there becoming more and more of an eyesore. Now its a beautiful area and will attract visitors to the area. Of course, now it will become popular and they’ll really want a rail line in that part of town.
When I got home, I checked out the web site to find out more about it and their future plans. The history page really caught my attention. The most interesting part is the beginning, here are the first few entries:
The City of New York authorizes street-level railroad tracks down Manhattanâ€™s West Side.
1851 â€“ 1929
So many accidents occur between freight trains and street-level traffic that 10th Avenue becomes known as Death Avenue. For safety, men on horses, called the West Side Cowboys, ride in front of trains waving red flags.
After years of public debate about the hazard, the City and State of New York and the New York Central Railroad agree on the West Side Improvement Project, which includes the High Line. The entire project is 13 miles long, eliminates 105 street-level railroad crossings, and adds 32 acres to Riverside Park. It costs over $150 million in 1930 dollarsâ€”more than $2 billion today.
That middle one is the best. It was called Death Avenue, that couldnâ€™t have been good for property values. Even though they knew it was a disaster, it took almost 80 years to do anything about it. Well, unless you call guys on horses waving flags doing something about it.
The line was shut down in 1980, meaning nothing was done with it for almost 30 years.
Has an elevated rail structure been made into a park before?
The city of Paris successfully converted a similar rail viaduct into an elevated park called the Promenade PlantÃ©e. It is lavishly planted and offers both stairs and elevators for access. Projects similar to the High Line are in early stages in St. Louis, Philadelphia, Jersey City, Chicago, and Rotterdam, among others.
I looked into the one they mention in Philly, people want to do something similar with the Reading Viaduct. Seems too logical to actually happen.
Only Phase 1 is open, Phase 2 is scheduled to open next year (so Iâ€™ll have to make a return). There is talk of Phase 3 but I think that is still being planned.