Mt. Airy residents are on track to soon see the construction of eight newly improved crosswalks along Germantown Avenue beginning in the fall of next year.
Mt. Airy residents are on track to soon see the construction of eight newly improved crosswalks along Germantown Avenue beginning in the fall of next year, thanks to the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District’s plan to enhance the pedestrian experience along the neighborhood’s central business corridor. If all goes according to plan, they’ll be up and running by fall 2026.
Mt. Airy’s business corridor, much like that in Chestnut Hill, is known for its tree-lined streets, historic homes, and a mix of independent shops, restaurants, and cafes along Germantown Avenue, which serves as the commercial corridor. But the two-mile stretch of Germantown Avenue that forms the neighborhood’s commercial corridor can currently be a challenge for pedestrians because traffic is fast-moving and sometimes aggressive, and there can be long stretches of sidewalk between crosswalks. Between Sedgwick and Phil-Ellena Streets, for instance, there is almost a half-mile gap between controlled crossings.
The point of these new crosswalks is to calm traffic and make crossing Germantown Avenue safer.
“Making the Avenue safe for pedestrians has long been a priority for the Mt. Airy BID and its business and property owners,” said Ken Weinstein, president of the Mt. Airy BID. “We want to do everything we can to make doing business, shopping or dining out as easy and safe as possible for our customers and employees.”
The project will also bring improved bus stops along SEPTA's Route 23. The BID, which is partnering with the Philadelphia Streets Department, the Philadelphia Department of Commerce and the engineering firm Gannett Fleming to complete the project, has so far completed about 60% of the design process.
“People have definitely been vocal about difficulties crossing Germantown Avenue,” said Anne Dicker, the head of West Mt. Airy Neighbors’ traffic calming committee.
Intersections that will get new crosswalks include: Durham, East Gorgas, Carpenter/Meehan, Pelham/Slocum Street, Phil Ellena, Hortter and Cliveden. One intersection in Germantown – at the corner of Germantown Avenue and Tulpehocken Street – is also included in the project.
The intersection at Durham Street, which Weinstein called ‘the heart of Mt. Airy,” features nearby businesses like Bar Lizette and Trattoria Moma.
“People have been struggling for years to try and cross the street there,” said Weinstein.
The intersection at Gorgas Lane is right next to Germantown Home, a nursing home, and the Carpenter Lane intersection is also a busy one, with Fino’s Pizza and Able Plumbing Supply and a small pocket park next door to a fire station.
Malelani Cafe and Santander Bank are close to the Pelham Road intersection, and a new catering company is set to open up near the intersection at Hortter Street. That intersection already features a variety of businesses, including Adelie Coffee House, Panda House and Zsa’s Ice Cream.
Caring Heart Rehabilitation and Nursing Center is located near the intersection at Cliveden.
The intersection at Germantown and Tulpehocken, like Hortter Street, also features a variety of businesses including Safeguard Self Storage, a Rite Aid and a small deli. New Bethel Church of Germantown is also located on that street corner.
“We hand-picked each of these crossings,” Weinstein said. “We know where safe pedestrian crossings were lacking.”
The project will enhance these intersections through a process called “daylighting,” which clears space in a crosswalk such that pedestrians are more visible to cars. It will also reduce the amount of time it takes to cross the street, making it easier for pedestrians – especially children and the elderly – to cross the street before the traffic lights change.
According to Dicker, such changes can have a dramatic impact on safety.
According to statistics provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, since 2013, there were 22 car crashes involving pedestrians along Germantown Avenue from Durham Street to Tulpehocken Street – intersections that will soon see the new crosswalks.
Daylighting infrastructure has already been installed in Philadelphia neighborhoods like Fishtown and Graduate Hospital, Dicker said.
Thus far, the project is being funded by state grants, which State Sen. Art Haywood and Rep. Chris Rabb have helped to procure, and the city streets department. U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans has asked for $923,000 in federal money for the Mt. Airy/Germantown Streetscape Improvement and Reconnection. The total project could cost up to $5 million.
The proposed crossing improvements would also include sidewalk “bump-outs,'' which help increase pedestrian visibility and shorten the length of the street crossing.
As proposed, the bump-outs would feature a special kind of strobe flashing light on the corner, which can be activated by pedestrians and is designed to alert motorists. There is one such flashing light already installed at the intersection of Germantown Avenue and Duval Street in Germantown, which was put there as a pilot project by the City Streets Department.
This project has been underway since 2019, when representatives of the city’s Commerce Department committed to installing the new crossings and dedicated streetscape funding for design and engineering. The design phase began in March 2020, with a field survey conducted by Gannett Fleming. A preliminary concept was shared by Gannett Fleming at a Mt. Airy BID meeting on June 10, and based on feedback, several revisions were made.
Final designs for the project are slated to be completed in the fall of this year.
“My hope,” Dicker added, “is we’ll be able to do more blocks like this in the Northwest in the near term.”
For more information about the project, or to see extended drawings of proposals for each intersection, visit mtairybid.com/blog.