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Fordham Plaza Overhaul Promises Big Improvements for Pedestrians

3:43 PM EDT on August 3, 2010

Fordham_Aerial.jpgPlans for a re-designed Fordham Plaza would add 15,750 square feet of public space. Image: NYCEDC/DOT

Fordham Plaza, one of the city's busiest transit and retail hubs, but also one of its most dangerous, is slated for a major redesign [PDF] by NYCDOT and the Economic Development Corporation. Highlights of the badly-needed overhaul include a massive increase in public space, a slew of safety improvements for pedestrians, and a block-long bus- and bike-only street.

Currently, Fordham Plaza is one of the most important public spaces in New York City. It has rich transit access, with the third-busiest Metro-North station in the system and eight bus lines, including the city's first Select Bus Service route. According to DOT counts, the retail corridor along Fordham Road sees as much foot traffic as Herald Square or Penn Station -- more than 80,000 pedestrians over the course of 12 hours.

Fordham_Crashes.jpgTraffic collisions injuring pedestrians (red) and cyclists (yellow). The biggest red dot is the intersection of Fordham Road and Webster Ave.

Despite those assets, however, Fordham Plaza doesn't work the way it should. Its northwest corner, the intersection between Fordham Road and Webster Avenue, is the third most dangerous intersection in the city. According to CrashStat, between 1995 and 2005, drivers injured 116 pedestrians and cyclists and killed one pedestrian. Whether on their way to shop, to work, or to class, pedestrians are hemmed in by excessive asphalt. 

This plan should go a long way toward making Fordham Plaza the safe and vibrant place it ought to be. Many streets next to the plaza would get serious traffic-calming measures, with wider sidewalks helping pedestrians to cross streets. All told, the plan adds a full 15,750 square feet of pedestrian space to the area. 

At the heart of the plaza, Park Avenue would no longer extend north of 189th Street, opening up room for a large, contiguous public space. Third Avenue would become a one-block busway between 189th Street and Fordham Road, with sharrows to connect the bike network south of the plaza to the Fordham University campus. A slip lane at the hazardous Fordham and Webster intersection would be converted to sidewalk space.

FordhamJaywalkingCompare_1.jpgFilling in the plaza (left) will reduce some conflicts between pedestrians and buses, which currently plague the site (right), but it will still be very tempting for pedestrians to cross Fordham Road midblock.

The plan isn't a cure-all, however. One reason there are so many injuries in the area is that the quickest way between the Metro-North station and the bus stops is to walk across Fordham Road mid-block. It seems likely that many pedestrians will continue to do so. On Third Avenue, bus and bike traffic will be funneled together without any dedicated space for cyclists.

The redesign comes at the same time as a Department of City Planning proposal to rezone much of the neighborhood. The rezoning calls for more intensive development than is currently allowed near this transit hub. Together, these changes could transform the area. 

Next up for the Fordham Plaza overhaul, which is currently in the conceptual design stage: a detailed plan by DOT for permanent construction

Fordham_Public_Space.jpgPedestrian space in the re-designed Fordham Plaza, overlaid on the present plaza.

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