Streets Dept. now says tracks will NOT be paved over

Face meet egg: Yesterday, I reported that there was a tentative plan to pave over the rail tracks on 11th and 12th Streets in Center City, from Market to South Streets, this fall. That information came directly from Keisha McCarty-Skelton, Public Relations Supervisor at the Philadelphia Streets Dept., by email, who confirmed said information with an engineer on the project.

McCarty-Skelton now tells PW that the streets will be paved, but the tracks will remain!

“Apparently, the engineer I spoke to was misunderstood,” she says today. “What I learned from our chief engineer is that we will be paving adjacent to and around the tracks,” she adds. “Because they’re SEPTA’s tracks, we have to get their permission and it’s very costly – and it’s costly to remove them,  so we won’t be paving over them.”

Here’s the text of the email I received from the Streets Dept. on Monday, all of which was either quoted or written in yesterday’s story:

The Streets Department will be resurfacing 11th and 12th St from Market St to South St this fall. The tracks will be paved over unless it is determined that they are too advanced that they cannot be buried and will affect the smooth overlay in the street.

The trolley tracks and areas within 18 inches on either side are the responsibility of SEPTA. Removal of the tracks is expensive and can cause a change of construction of the street. For example, resurfacing of one city block along with removal of tracks cost approximately $400,000 to resurface.

I’m waiting to hear back from the engineer on the project for more information. Updates as they come — and much apologies if we got anyone’s hopes up. Feel free to let me have it.

UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Darin Gatti, Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia Streets Department, who tells me the tracks cannot be paved over due to restrictions from the American Disabilities Act, and costs.

“We do sometimes try and pave over old trolley tracks like we did it on Fourth Street,” he says, but the way 11th and 12th Streets have been set up and paved, the entire street could not have concrete laid over it unless the tracks itself were torn out—and that isn’t happening due to monetary constraints.

“It used to be easier [to pave over tracks],” he says, “but with the new ADA [American Disabilities Act] regulations you have to be really careful about paving over things and raising the streets.”

Essentially, some streets in Philadelphia are flat, and some are on angles. These particular streets’ angles, especially with the track in the center, are too steep.

“Some of the streets in Center City are pretty flat; some of them you’re walking up a steep hill to get to the center of the road,” he says.

As mentioned in yesterday’s report on this issue, it can cost up to $400,000 to rip rail lines from a single city block.

“When you get to this point, you’re looking at your priorities: if the rails aren’t being used, it would be nice to get rid of them. But we have so many streets that need to be paved, we can’t afford to make this street that much nicer and have this street covered by pot holes.”

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4 Responses to “ Streets Dept. now says tracks will NOT be paved over ”

  1. Josh Kruger says:

    This is like getting one of those fake lottery tickets as a joke.

    The egg should be on the Streets Department for wading into the bicycle issue (really, that’s what this is about) and giving bicyclists much needed, and immediately withdrawn, support from a city whose infrastructure is being updated (and needs it.)

    Council has no problem ripping up curb cuts and replacing them to accommodate jazzy scooters, but the idea of encouraging healthy lifestyles, well, that’s just a bridge too far.

  2. Roy says:

    GOOD! We need to keep these tracks maintained because if money is available say 10 years down the road to bring this Route 23 back, they can simply just purchase the vehicles and place them on the tracks and they’re ready to. Bicyclists can stop whining.

  3. Nikki Casey says:

    The track serve importance in the history of Philadelphia’s trolleys, especially with the 23 being North America’s LONGEST trolley line spanning 12 miles from Chestnut Hill to Oregon Avenue. We need to keep the tracks and press the city to redirect funds to invest in the return of the trolley. If Philadelphia is so worried about going green wouldn’t it be logical to remove the diesel buses off the line and put the trolleys back? Can’t the bikers go a block over to 13th or 10th where there bike lanes already in place? Are the bikers THAT lazy they can’t go a block over. Get you ish together Philadelphia.

  4. Alan says:

    Josh Kruger, you are an imbecile. The city ripped up curbs to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. While you’d like to denigrated it and claim it’s for jazzy scooters, it’s actually to allow persons in wheelchairs to navigate the city with fewer barriers. Whether you think that’s worthwhile or not is immaterial; the law required the repaving of corners, the stimulus package provided funding for it, and the repaving of streets that everyone agrees is needed couldn’t commence until it was complete.

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