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The five-way intersection of 48th St., Baltimore Ave. and Florence Ave. has long been a confusing and potentially dangerous crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists. Walkers confronted a massive expanse of asphalt and fast moving vehicles along with a confusing pattern of crosswalks that did not permit a direct crossing along the busy Baltimore Ave. commercial corridor, forcing many to play a game of “frogger” with speeding cars and trucks.
In late 2011, University City District (UCD) received a grant from the City of Philadelphia to transform this problematic intersection into a space more suited to pedestrians. Working in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, the Streets Department, and the community, UCD developed a set of guiding design principles that included improving pedestrian safety, greening the space, improving the waiting experience for trolley riders, and using local materials, all while avoiding an impact on parking.
The Baltimore Crossing pedestrian plaza is the result. Three new large painted bump-outs on the south side of the intersection substantially reduce its scale and create a far less intimidating experience for pedestrians, while reducing the speeds of turning vehicles. Protected by a buffer of rustic blocks of salvaged Pennsylvania Bluestone and lushly planted large terra-cotta style planters, these bump-outs create a new safe space for pedestrians waiting to cross the intersection, which, importantly, includes a new crosswalk that directly connects the Gold Standard Cafe and the Calvary Center for Culture and Community. The bump-outs and new crosswalk together reduce pedestrian crossing distances by roughly 40% - 50%, while creating a beautiful new sea of green that serves to knit together Baltimore Ave. both functionally and aesthetically.
Baltimore Crossing serves as an example of the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” approach that UCD has recently been taking to improving and humanizing the neighborhood’s public spaces, including, most prominently, at The Porch at 30th St. Station, as well as at the neighborhood’s multiple “Parklets,” and at the recently completed “Woodland Green” pedestrian plaza at 42nd St. and Woodland Ave.