Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Potomac High wants sidewalks

County says construction would be difficult, but feasible

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Bryan Haynes⁄The Gazette
Potomac High School students walk beside passing cars along Boydell Avenue recently on their way to their school in Oxon Hill.
Brittney, Brianna and Bridgett Dean of Oxon Hill walk along Boydell Avenue together every day to reach Potomac High School, often crossing into traffic because of a lack of sidewalks.

But the sisters may soon get a safer path to class.

‘‘Give us a school bus or make us a sidewalk,” said Brittney Dean, 17, almost in chorus with her younger siblings.

Department of Public Works and Transportation officials inspected Boydell Avenue on Monday morning, and determined that conditions would make the construction of a sidewalk feasible on the west side of the street, said Susan Hubbard, a DPW&T spokeswoman.

But the installation of a sidewalk, Hubbard said, would be difficult because of restricted right-of-way or personal property, utility relocations, removal of trees and landscaping from private properties, installation of under drains and the current location of a retaining wall.

‘‘DPW&T takes all requests for a sidewalk from the school board or from anyone else very seriously,” Hubbard wrote in an e-mail. ‘‘Installing a sidewalk is always a good thing to do to help ensure the safety of pedestrians, as long as it is feasible to do so and funding is available.”

The project likely would be funded by the school system or by the DPW&T’s Capital Improvement Plan, Hubbard said.”

As of Monday, Hubbard said, the department had not received an official request from Prince George’s County Public Schools.

Potomac High School principal Donna Daniel said she and members of the student government recently addressed the need for a sidewalk to Regional Assistant Superintendent William Ritter, head of the county’s High School Consortium.

Potomac High’s enrollment is 1,300 students, nearly 800 of whom use 30 buses to get to school, Daniel said. Nearly 500 students walk to Potomac High each weekday.

‘‘Children feel [a sidewalk] is a valid concern, I feel it’s a valid concern,” Daniel said.

According to existing guidelines of county schools, Daniel said, high school students who live within a 2-mile radius must find their own way to school. But Daniel said her school is difficult to reach on foot because it is located in a busy area outside of Washington.

‘‘When you come down the hill on Boydell Avenue, there are no sidewalks,” Daniel said. ‘‘As the buses and other traffic come in, there is no way for the children to get out of the way.”

John White, spokesman for Prince George’s County Public Schools, said Ritter has sent a request to the Department of Support Services, which is expected to contact the DPW&T soon.

‘‘The Department is almost in daily contact with the DPW&T on a number of things, including sidewalks,” White said.

The students who walk said it is a daily struggle to safely reach school.

‘‘Sometimes the buses are parked on the side of the road,” said Adrian Brown, 16, a 10th grader, on her way to Potomac High School, 5211 Boydell Ave.

‘‘It’s not safe because cars will be driving around us,” said her friend and classmate, Tiara Stone, 16.

E-mail Ahmar Mustikhan at amustikhan@gazette.net.