Apparently this may very well be related to the river park issues:
Posted on Tue, Dec. 19, 2006 Philadelphia Daily News
Ronnie Polaneczky | Dare we celebrate sweet CSX deal?
SINCE THIS is Philly, it's way too soon to pop a cork over the good news that came out last week about Schuylkill River Park. But I'm feeling cautiously thrilled about the tentative agreement between the city and CSX Corp., which has not been an agreeable neighbor of the park.The deal, on its way to the mayor for approval, redeems CSX in a fabulous deal for park users.
Get this: The rail company would allow street-level pedestrian crossings at Race and Locust streets, and help fund a pedestrian bridge over the tracks south of Locust.
Oh. My. God.
"I know that nothing is ever a deal until it's a signed deal," said Philly chief deputy city solicitor Michael Eichert, who's been negotiating with CSX on the rail-crossing issue. "There's still work to be done, even if it's signed."
"This could be one of those times when everyone pulled together to make something great happen," he said.
The usually loquacious Sarah Clark Stuart, one of the founders of the advocacy group Free Schuylkill River Park, was also celebration-reticent.
"This has been so much work, and everyone has worked so hard," she said cautiously.
"This could be one of those cases where a community stood its ground, the city backed them up, and then we made a deal that works really well for everyone."
But what she wanted to say, I could tell, was "Hooray!"
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.
Including those hauling smelly municipal waste, which would sit on the tracks for hours.
"Once that domino fell, everything started to move," said Bill Goetz, a CSX vice president who's been working on the access issue. "The new track will make the whole Philadelphia terminal run more smoothly."As long as the city agreed to electronic gates at Race and at Locust, which would close while a train passed or parked, CSX wouldn't fight access any longer.
Which doesn't mean smooth sailing ahead, even if the agreement, after working its way through the city's legal machinery, gets the mayor's OK.
The pedestrian bridge still needs to be designed, fully funded and installed, and the last bits of that lawsuit resolved.
But it's good news nonetheless, a result of tenacious work by the city's Law Department, park advocates, City Council and - yes - CSX, which I've criticized many times on the access issue.
But not today. Instead, I'll honor Goetz's request to reiterate that pedestrians should never, ever try to cross a parked train.
"For us, this has always been about safety," he said. "Once that was successfully addressed, everything fell into place."
All together now: Hooray!
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