Gary Garcia, 22, and his brother, Cory Garcia, 8, live only a few hundred feet from the back entrance of Bladensburg Elementary. But that still does not stop Gary Garcia from driving his brother, a third-grader at the school, to the front entrance each morning.
“When we were small, we used to walk there,” Gary Garcia said of the school that backs to Quincy Street but faces Annapolis Road, explaining that he did not attend the school, but walked with his little sister, who did. “But we did not feel safe all the time.”
Bladensburg officials said many students who live along a 660-foot stretch of Quincy Street are driven to school, as the roadway has no sidewalks and traffic often moves quickly on the street, which posts a speed limit of 30 mph. As a result, parents and officials are working with state representatives to find funding and urge the State Highway Administration, which owns the street, to add sidewalks, make storm water repairs that would decrease the amount of water sitting on the roadway, and to repave the street, which stretches from 48th Street to the back entrance of Bladensburg Elementary.
“In essence, people do the strangest things to get to school,” said Town Administrator John Moss. “Now they are putting them in the car for what would be an eighth-of-a-mile walk.”
Moss said not many pedestrians use the road, but several students walk along the street to get to and from school.
The call to make improvements is urgent, Moss said, because there has already been one fatality on the street. In June 2011, a 17-year-old riding his bicycle on the road was killed when he was struck by a vehicle, Moss said.
“Community safety and pedestrian safety for our youngest residents is of utmost importance ... ” Moss said. “We just want our young folks to be able to walk to school safely, get a great education and stay healthy in our community.”
Christopher Bishop, the SHA’s community liaison for Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, said administration officials met Jan. 28 with Bladensburg officials and are investigating the possibility of adding sidewalks to the street,
“SHA is committed to working with the town to increase pedestrian safety for the students and the parents there at Bladensburg Elementary School,” he said.
Still, he said the project could be expensive and difficult, given that adding sidewalks could conflict with underground water and sewer lines if they exist on the street. He also said the slope on the north side of the street might need to be leveled for sidewalk installation.
Councilman Walter George (Ward 2) said he was almost struck by a vehicle in 2010 when he was doing volunteer cleanup on the road with community members.
“It is unsafe,” he said. “I am surprised that it took this long to bring some attention to the matter ... . It is only a blessing from God that we have not had [students] get hit.”