In 1847, the City of New York authorized the construction of railroad tracks along Tenth and Eleventh Avenues on Manhattan's West Side. The street-level tracks were used by the New York Central Railroad's freight trains, which shipped commodities such as coal, dairy products and beef. For safety the railroad hired "West Side cowboys", men who rode horses and waved flags in front of the trains. However, so many accidents occurred between freight trains and other traffic that the nickname "Death Avenue" was given to Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. In 1910, one organization estimated that there had been 548 deaths and 1,574 injuries over the years along Eleventh Avenue.
Public debate about the hazard began during the early 1900s. In 1929 the city, the state, and New York Central agreed on the West Side Improvement Project, conceived by Robert Moses. The 13-mile (21 km) project eliminated 105 street-level railroad crossings and added 32 acres (13 ha) to Riverside Park; it also included construction of the West Side Elevated Highway. It cost more than $150 million, about $2 billion in 2017 dollars. The last stretch of street-level track was removed from Eleventh Avenue in 1941.
- Dunlap, David W. (February 18, 2015). "New York City Rail Crossings Carry a Deadly Past". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
- "The Highline: past and present". GeoWeb, Harvard University. May 13, 2010. Archived from the original on October 23, 2014. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
- "High Line History". Friends of the High Line. Archived from the original on September 22, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2009.
- Gray, Christopher (December 22, 2011). "When a Monster Plied the West Side". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 17, 2014. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
The New York World referred to the West Side route as Death Avenue in 1892, long after the Park Avenue problem had been solved, saying 'many had been sacrificed' to 'a monster which has menaced them night and day.'
- Amateau, Albert. "Newspaper was there at High Line's birth and now its rebirth". The Villager. 77 (48). Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved August 12, 2011.
- "' Death Ave.' Ends as Last Rusty Rail Goes; Huge West Side Improvement Completed" (PDF). The New York Times. June 26, 1941. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
- Walsh, Kevin (September 2012). ""High Line"'s Last Frontier". Forgotten NY. Archived from the original on October 24, 2014. Retrieved October 23, 2014.