The Rail Park entrance was smashed up by a car after a seizure, officials say

The stairway near 11th and Callowhill is out of commission.

A chevy smashed into the Rail Park steps on Tuesday after the driver had a seizure.

A chevy smashed into the Rail Park steps on Tuesday after the driver had a seizure.

Courtesy John Pettit
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Updated Oct. 11: After almost a month, the Center City District repaired the Rail Park steps at 11th and Callowhill on Oct. 11. It cost $60,000 to fix them up — totally covered by the CCD’s insurance policy.

The repairs should be completed by this afternoon and the stairs will reopen by the end of the day. Total cost of the repairs were around $60,000 and were covered by the CCD insurance policy we have for the Rail Park

One of the main entrances to the Rail Park was smashed up so badly in a car accident that it’s unusable, and city officials said the timeline for a fix is still up in the air.

The 11th Street stairway leading to the elevated park in Philadelphia’s Callowhill neighborhood is missing at least six steps, and its railing and the adjacent fence are thoroughly gnarled — shrunken to a fraction of their size like a closed accordion.

On Tuesday afternoon, a seizure temporarily incapacitated the driver of a Chevy pickup truck, per Center City District president Paul Levy. The vehicle reportedly then barrelled down Callowhill Street at a high speed, stopping when it crashed into one of the parklet’s two access points.

Caution tape is currently stretched across the metal staircase, barring people from ascending.

South Philly resident John Pettit saw the aftermath of the accident, which witnesses say nearly took out a woman and a baby.

The steps at 11th and Callowhill are now unusable.

The steps at 11th and Callowhill are now unusable.

Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

An archivist at Temple’s new library, Pettit had the day off, so he decided to take his 7-month-old son to the Rail Park to enjoy the first hints of crisp autumn air, he said. When he tried to leave around 4:30 p.m., he saw the steps were blocked off.

Then he saw the car.

“I couldn’t imagine how someone picked up enough speed for things to look as they did,” Pettit told Billy Penn. “At first I thought it was a pretty insane case of recklessness for a driver to go that speed.”

Pettit said he heard that the pickup truck hit a few cars, then flew through the intersection at 11th and Callowhill, “narrowly missing a woman walking with a stroller.”

According to Levy, of the Center City District, the incident happened after the driver experienced a seizure. Pettit said officers on the scene told him the driver had been transported to a hospital. On Thursday afternoon, Levy wasn’t sure whether the driver was still seeking medical attention.

Remnants of the accident are so far minimally impacting park operations. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, officials informed yoga class attendees they’d have to use the entrance on Noble Street near Broad to make it to the event.

Residents who’ve gotten used to using the green-covered rail line as a scenic shortcut over the past year it’s been open are being forced to revert to their pre-Rail Park habits.

Spring Garden resident Barbara Wolf said the damage has impacted her daily commute.

Officials aren't sure when they'll be able to fix the Rail Park steps.

Officials aren't sure when they'll be able to fix the Rail Park steps.

Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

“This really limits the easy use of the rail trail for neighbors and the Chinatown community,” Wolf said, “and changes my work walking commute back to ugly Ridge Avenue.”

It’s unclear when repairs will be made.

“We are working both with our insurance company and our contractor and hope to be able to make the repairs very soon,” Levy said.

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