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Richmond Industrial Trail

Gurney Street Trail pilot project along the planned Richmond Industrial Trail | Photo courtesy HACE

Vision and Opportunity

The Richmond Industrial Trail is a developing, 1.8-mile walking and biking greenway trail that will connect five communities to the Delaware River, green space, public transportation options, anchor institutions and multiple developing community development projects along the corridor. When complete, this unique rail-with-trail will serve as a local hub for access to regional transportation and recreation networks throughout Philadelphia and the greater metropolitan area, including the Circuit Trails, a developing 800-mile world-class network of rail-trails in Greater Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey.

Less than 3 miles north of Center City Philadelphia, the Richmond Industrial Track is a corridor that has historically created both opportunities and challenges for communities adjacent to the line. Its route crosses the neighborhoods of Fairhill, Kensington, East Kensington, Olde Richmond and Port Richmond as it transitions from the elevated Lehigh Viaduct to a section known as “the cut,” which runs below grade. Once the most active freight line in the city, the Richmond Industrial Track was key in supporting the region’s economic growth from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s. More recently, the corridor is envisioned in over 12 plans as a multi-use trail with the potential to serve more than 40,000 residents living within a half-mile of the corridor. The project would provide a safe biking and walking route appropriate for all ages and abilities, where, currently, unprotected bicycling facilities and substandard or missing sidewalks are common.

The Richmond Industrial Trail Interactive Storymap

Connecting five Philadelphia neighborhoods to each other, the Delaware River and beyond

The Richmond Industrial Trail | Aerial photo courtesy RTC

View Interactive Storymap

Why Build the Richmond Industrial Trail: Making the Case

Gurney Street Trail Ribbon Cutting in September 2018 | Photo courtesy RTC
Gurney Street Trail Ribbon Cutting in September 2018 | Photo courtesy RTC

Supporting Healthy Communities

The public health and wellbeing benefits the trail will bring to adjacent neighborhoods and the broader community are significant. The rail-with-trail will allow for low-cost or no-cost opportunities for exercise by providing safe outdoor spaces to be active outdoors in an area where few safe sidewalks, biking facilities and parks exist. With limited options for safe physical activity, currently the rates of obesity in the area are at 37%, and 40% of residents do not exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These rates are 6% and 10% higher than the city averages, respectively, and 8% and 14% higher than national rates. Data shows that having a trail close to home increases the physical activity of residents by 22%.

Strengthening Local Economies

Communities which support active living and access to trails provide direct access between residents and nearby businesses – strengthening ties between neighbors and business, and providing safe, healthy ways to shop, work and play while socially distancing and staying close to home. Like many trails across the country, the Richmond Industrial Trail will encourage businesses to locate along the corridor because of the increased foot and bike traffic the trail will bring. Additionally, the forthcoming HACE Trail Park will provide opportunities for small businesses to cater to those enjoying the park as well as the robust programming that is planned for the site. The trail will serve as a major attraction and is expected to draw visitors from across the city, which will provide additional customers to new and existing business along the corridor.

Community bike festival | Photo courtesy RTC
Community bike festival | Photo courtesy RTC

Promoting Equitable Investments in our Neighborhoods

Investing in the Richmond Industrial Trail is an investment in neighborhoods that have been underserved and underinvested in for too long. In Philadelphia, as in many cities across America, not every neighborhood has received the same level of investment in transportation, recreation, public health and quality of life. Infrastructure such as urban trails and green space, which turn barriers in the built environment into community nodes and connecting corridors, create direct high return investments in the quality of life, wellbeing and access to opportunity for residents adjacent to this former industrial corridor.

Connecting the Dots through Active Transportation and Community Greenspace

From HACE’s innovative Trail Park on one end, to the exciting work being planned for DRWC’s Graffiti Pier on the other, there are many inspiring projects being developed along the Richmond Industrial Trail. The trail promises to link these and other initiatives together through a rail-trail serving as the backbone of an incredible linear park, stretching nearly 2 miles.

The disjointed sidewalks and inadequate bike lanes along the corridor currently make walking and bicycling hazardous. The new trail will provide safe active-transportation infrastructure for residents of all ages and abilities, opening up new opportunities for access to destinations across the corridor’s five neighborhoods without reliance on a car. Additionally, strong regional connections, including to the Circuit Trails network and the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway, will provide access to major parks, recreational amenities and the Delaware River waterfront. 

Landscaping pilot | Photo courtesy RTC
Landscaping pilot | Photo courtesy RTC

Preserving the Environment

By preserving this formerly industrial corridor as public open space, a new nearly 2-mile long ribbon of meadow, forest and gardens could be introduced to north Philadelphia, creating opportunities to increase the city’s tree canopy, treat storm water through rain gardens and native habitat installations. These opportunities for greening can support pockets of wildlife habitat in the heart of the city and improve air quality, provide access to nature for area residents, and provide pollinator habitats by rebuilding and restoring regenerative ecosystems along the corridor – providing safe havens for respite, and restoration for both people and wildlife. Additionally, by providing safe walking and biking options, residents will rely less on cars, preventing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Preserving Local History

A reminder of Philadelphia’s industrial heritage that supported the nation’s growth, the physical infrastructure of the corridor serves as an impressive monument to Philadelphia’s place in railroad, industry, manufacturing, and transportation history of the region and beyond. Preserving this corridor will enable the surrounding communities to use the trail to tell their parts of that story, and the larger story of Philadelphia and the region as a whole.

The “Art Walk” | Photo courtesy RTC
The “Art Walk” | Photo courtesy RTC

How It’s Getting Done

Gurney Street Trail pilot project along the planned Richmond Industrial Trail | Photo by Anya Saretzky, courtesy RTC
Gurney Street Trail pilot project along the planned Richmond Industrial Trail | Photo by Anya Saretzky, courtesy RTC

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has worked closely with local partners to move the Richmond Industrial Trail project forward, taking it from concept to a developing reality. Below are the steps the coalition has taken to build support and advance the rail-with-trail initiative in North Philadelphia:

Exploring the Concept

In 2018, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and local partners explored the concept of a trail and completed an initial study of the Richmond Industrial Track, which analyzed previous planning efforts and transportation corridors within the focus area. Working closely with a collection of community-level stakeholders, RTC made a series of recommendations for advancing a trail along a 1.87-mile corridor between Richmond and American streets and connecting key neighborhoods and community assets to larger nearby trail and transportation systems.

Completing a Feasibility Study

RTC and partners then completed a formal feasibility study, which found that a trail system built along the corridor could connect five neighborhoods while improving the local economy and benefiting public health and safety in the process. The study outlines next steps for making this trail a reality for both the city and the neighborhoods along the corridor.

This study was done with collaboration and input from the following local partners:

Planning Review and Collaboration

Referenced in over 12 local neighborhood and city plans, the Richmond Industrial Trail is envisioned as a new amenity that would serve more than 40,000 residents living within a half-mile of the corridor. 

Building a Coalition and Cultivating Relationships

We’re collaborating with business improvement districts, neighborhood associations, government agencies, real estate developers, community development corporations and the private sector to advance the vision of the Richmond Industrial Trail.

Supporting Early Action Grants in the areas of:

Providing technical assistance to partner organizations: providing support in areas such as fundraising, grant writing, trail design assistance, community outreach and partner collaborations.

To learn more about the project, explore the Richmond Industrial Trail StoryMapread the blog, and sign up to receive updates as this project evolves.

This work is being made possible by the following funding sources:

Additional Resources: