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City Takes Steps Turning Old, Abandoned Freight Train Lines Into Park Land

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Reading Viaduct once served as busy passenger and freight rail lines into and out of Center City.

Now some residents are trying to turn it into park space, and the first portion of that plan is moving forward.

The group "Friends of the Rail Park" is spearheading the greening of the Reading Viaduct, and has secured a $1 million grant from two foundations for this first phase.

It involves turning a quarter-mile stretch of the Viaduct's northern spur into a park.

Councilman Mark Squilla has introduced a bill that allows the city to purchase that property from SEPTA.

"The plan is to initiate an open green space as part of the rampway up to the Reading Viaduct." said Squilla. "It's going to be an open green space, a park-like structure that's going to go from the Broad Street entrance all the way up to the Reading Viaduct. It'll be a nice green space for people to lounge and enjoy some open space in an area that really doesn't have any."

Squilla says the city's investment will pay off in the long run.

"It adds viability to the area. It'll help increase the opportunity for development." said Squilla. "It'll hopefully grow our tax base. We'll have more residents moving in to the area, more businesses wanting to locate there."

The land in this initial purchase is was used for decades by freight trains heading to the Reading Terminal. It runs east on Noble Street east of Broad Street, then curves southeast between 11th and 12th to Callowhill Street.

The Center City District, which would maintain the park, is raising money for the project. The Friends group hopes for ground breaking on Phase one later this year.

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