Philadelphia’s City Branch is an unused network of 115-year-old depressed rail lines that transported goods and people into and out of Center City Philadelphia. In 1992 the tracks were taken out of service and now lay dormant.
Friends of the Rail Park, a non-profit advocacy and fundraising group, has developed a vision for a 3-mile linear park and multi-modal transportation corridor on the unused rail lines that connects 10 neighborhoods with Center City, Fairmount Park, and some of Philadelphia’s most important cultural institutions along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. They envision the park as a series of interconnected neighborhood gathering spaces with a focus on health and wellness, arts and culture, and environmental and educational programming, as well as serving as a bicycle and pedestrian thoroughfare.
Beginning near 21st Street, at the western edge of the depressed “Cut” section of tracks, is a covered “Tunnel” section (50 feet wide by 25 feet high) which extends five blocks before the tracks reemerge and slowly ramp back above ground by 31st Street. Taking into consideration the three-mile vision for the park, what design interventions could improve access to, transit through, lighting in, and programming for the Rail Park Tunnel, making this covered section a useful, fun, and safe public space for all?