Maryland Community News
Published: Friday, June 20, 2014
Temple Hills community protests pedestrian bridge construction by Kirsten Petersen
Three weeks ago, a robust row of trees hid Josie DiRodio’s Temple Hills home from the hustle and bustle of Branch Avenue. Since the trees were cleared as part of a highway expansion project, the 68-year-old said she has been stripped of her privacy.
“I can’t sleep at night because of the noise from the highway,” she said. “Those trees buffered the sound from the highway. I feel violated.”
Now out in the open, residents of the once-secluded Woodlane community are afraid that a new pedestrian bridge connecting their neighborhood to the Branch Avenue Metro station will expose them to crime.
Nicole Ferro, the president of the Woodlane #1 Homeowners Association, said her community is concerned that the bridge, which would begin at the intersection of Long View Drive and Old Branch Avenue and cross over Branch Avenue, would bring violent crime to the 106-home community.
Ferro said the Woodlane community didn’t experience any major crime for 10 years. But when a crosswalk was established at Old Branch Avenue and Auth Road in 2012, crime spiked — three car thefts and 13 burglaries were reported, Ferro said.
“We had none until the state infiltrated our community,” Ferro said. “We were secluded. Call us naive, call us complacent. Nobody knew we were here. Now we’re exposed.”
Lt. Bill Alexander, a Prince George’s County Police Department spokesman, said there is no data or evidence showing that crime would increase in the area due to the pedestrian bridge. He added that officers from District IV, which includes the Woodlane community, would be responsible for patrolling the area and would work to enhance safety if crime occurs at the bridge.
Greenbelt residents contended with armed robberies, assaults and fights at the Spellman Overpass, a pedestrian bridge, said Greenbelt police Capt. Thomas Kemp. Since emergency call boxes and cameras were installed on the bridge, crime has gone down significantly, Kemp said.
“It’s just important to have visibility there and let residents know it is something that the agency is going to focus on,” Kemp said.
Ferro said residents have opposed the bridge construction since 2008 when they first saw the project proposal from the State Highway Administration, which intends to start building the 73-foot-long bridge in fall 2015 as part of phase two of the Branch Avenue Metro Access Project. The project, which will be completed in summer 2017, will include a new four-lane divided roadway and enhancements to local roadways.
Ferro said fewer than 12 people walk to the metro station from the Woodlane community and called the proposed walkway “a bridge to nowhere.”
David Buck, an SHA spokesman, said the state is required by law to replace pedestrian walkways that would be removed during construction. The crosswalk currently in place would be removed when Branch Avenue is widened as part of the project, Buck said.
“It’s not a choice. We can’t decide to omit that,” Buck said. “If one person uses it and there was access before, even if nobody used it…we have to continue providing it.”
Buck said safety features such as lighting and call boxes would be considered for the project.
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