Philadelphia and freight railroad CSX have squared off over a decaying bridge in the southwest corner of the city. CSX wants to demolish the bridge, which carries traffic and pedestrians down Cemetery Avenue over railroad tracks, arguing that it is no longer of use. Philly authorities want CSX to keep footing the bill to maintain the bridge, which serves a neighborhood. Inquirer Reporter Andrew Maykuth covers the face-off.

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A bridge too far: Philadelphia and CSX collide over railroad’s request to demolish an aging bridge

As if urban life in hardscrabble Southwest Philadelphia were not tough enough, along comes one of the nation’s richest railroad companies, proposing to demolish a decaying bridge, and turn the busy street in front of your business into a permanent cul-de-sac.

So it is for Bill Janes and other inhabitants along Cemetery Avenue, where CSX Transportation wants to remove a 60-year-old city bridge carrying vehicles and pedestrians over its twin freight lines. CSXT, which is responsible for the span’s upkeep, says the Cemetery Avenue bridge is unnecessary. It asked the state to allow it to dismantle the bridge and abolish the crossing forever.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Janes, 61, who owns several properties on Cemetery Avenue including an auto-repair garage, which he fears would lose customers if the street were to become a dead end. “I’m surprised they want to shut it down. There’s so much traffic here.”

CSXT filed the request in 2019 with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which has jurisdiction over the 8,785 railroad crossings in Pennsylvania, including about 640 operating public crossings in Philadelphia. The railroad’s request got little public attention and Janes only learned of CSXT’s proposal because he cornered some city officials inspecting the span a year ago. But the case has quietly generated an astonishing volume of testimony, engineering reports, and rebuttals before the PUC.

Read more about CSXT and the Cemetery Avenue bridge.

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The Big Number: 8,785 crossing

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has jurisdiction over the 8,785 railroad crossings in Pennsylvania, including about 640 operating public crossings in Philadelphia. Here is a story about one crossing in Southwest Philadelphia.