CSX wants bridge removed, but city is fighting for its survival

Written by RT&S Staff
David C. Lester

CSX believes a cul-de-sac is the way to go in southwest Philadelphia, but the city wants to continue to give life to the Cemetery Avenue bridge.

CSX has decided the best option for the decaying vehicular span, which the Class 1 owns, is to demolish it and construct a dead end. The bridge crosses over a pair of CSX freight lines. Furthermore, CSX believes if the city has a need for it, then the city should be responsible for the repairs/replacement.

The route, however, appears to be essential for first responders. According to Philadelphia Police Lt. Joseph Ruff, the Cemetery Avenue bridge was the primary access route for 4,500 police calls in 2020, including 195 calls for higher-grade felonies. The city also says firetrucks, ambulances and garbage trucks would not be able to manipulate the cul-de-sac.

About 5,400 vehicles use the bridge daily, and pedestrians, according to the city, would have to use the 65th Street bridge as an alternate crossing, which is a half of a mile away from the Cemetery Avenue bridge.

Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission agreed with the city and with a recommended decision made last year by Administrative Law Judge Darlene Heep. Heep said CSX was responsible for the bridge repairs and the city was responsible for the bridge approaches.

CSX rebuilt the bridge in 1921 and 1961, and says it has spent more than $600,000 to maintain the span since 2015.

If the Public Utility Commission’s order for CSX to repair the bridge ever becomes final, the Class 1 railroad would have seven days to fix the highest repair priorities and six months for other issues. The city would then have two months after CSX’s work is complete to deal with the approaches.

In a statement released to RT&S, CSX says it is reviewing the decision by the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission and evaluating its response.

Read more articles on rail bridges.

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