The great railroad dynasties of North America have waned, leaving stations, rail spurs, and viaducts rusting away in our post-industrial cities. Tearing them down is one way of dealing with them, but it’s an expensive, inefficient, and environmentally harmful option that erases significant pieces of transportation history. Several visionaries have chosen another route. Following the opening of the High Line in New York in 2009, the concept of the linear park as a new use for this infrastructure has swept the North American continent.

These parks are the passion projects of volunteers, architects, startups, and others. Some are, after years and even decades of advocacy and fundraising, finally coming to fruition. Others are still only on the drawing board. But they all share a common understanding—that this is a crucial moment in the tale of adaptive reuse. Because who knows? In a hundred years it may be our abandoned interstate highway system under deliberation. Remove or revive? Abandon or preserve? These five linear park projects are setting precedents right now that may determine how we deal with those questions.

Click through the five linear parks below.

The Lowline, New York

The Lowline, New York


Rail Park, Philadelphia

3. Gardiner Green Ribbon, Toronto

Gardiner Green Ribbon, Toronto

4. The 606, Chicago

The 606, Chicago

5. Atlanta BeltLine, Atlanta

Atlanta BeltLine, Atlanta