GREENSBORO — Western Guilford High School mother Stephanie Mitchell told area transportation officials in no uncertain terms Wednesday that students at the school desperately need sidewalks for safety and convenience.
Mitchell said she and other Western parents have been working futilely for years to get sidewalks on nearby Friendway Road, but they keep running into bureaucratic red tape.
“We keep getting passed around to different people,” she told the Greensboro area Metropolitan Planning Organization. “I am incredibly frustrated that the city is choosing recreation over safety. ... We have children walking in the mud, in the snow. It’s not acceptable.”
The board includes representatives from Greensboro and surrounding areas who supervise transportation planning and project completion for much of Guilford County.
They have not heard the last from her, Mitchell vowed.
“I’m not going away on this,” she said. “I’m digging in my heels.”
MPO chairwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter, a Greensboro City Council member, said that Mitchell’s remarks were the first she had heard of the issue. But she said it was now on the MPO’s radar and would receive careful consideration.
“We don’t want any child to be in jeopardy,” Abuzuaiter said.
Greensboro Department of Transportation planning manager Tyler Meyer said that he and his staff would look into the problem and get back to the oversight board with a report.
The city is in the midst of a massive, multiyear initiative to build sidewalks citywide. But Friendway Road was not in the mix yet, partly because nobody has filed a petition requesting sidewalks there, he said.
Meyer said the city Department of Transportation readily works with neighborhoods and schools on sidewalk problems, pointing to the expedited completion of sidewalks on Cone Boulevard near Page High that had been eagerly sought by that school’s leadership.
Mitchell came to the monthly meeting of the transportation group with Western PTSO president Stacey Papier, who said the lack of sidewalks on Friendway has been a source of aggravation and danger for years.
Both women have children who attend Western, and Papier said there’s a paper trail dating to at least 2006 showing abortive efforts to get sidewalks.
“We have documented proof that people have been working on this for years,” Papier said.
Mitchell said the lack of sidewalks was a factor in the 2017 death of a skateboarder who was struck by a car near the school. Had a sidewalk been in place, the youth might have been using it instead of a street and visibility problems that also contributed to the accident would have been greatly reduced, she said.
Mitchell said it was wrongheaded that local governments invest heavily in recreational greenways and in sidewalks that get little use along such major arteries as West Friendly Avenue, yet students are left to walk on the shoulders of such a busy road as Friendway.
Friendway is a mile-long road in western Greensboro that links Friendly Avenue to West Market Street with two sharp turns in the middle.
Meyer suggested the Bicentennial Greenway that goes through the Western campus should provide a safe off-road route for some students. But Mitchell and Papier said they do not consider it a safe substitute for traditional sidewalks because parts are overgrown and pass through crime-prone areas.
Meyer said that the Friendway project would not be so simple or inexpensive as just putting in a concrete pathway.
The street is a onetime country road that would have to be widened to municipal standards.
In other action Wednesday, the MPO delayed nearly $19 million in new airport taxiways at Piedmont Triad International Airport to allow more time for “necessary project development work.”
The board agreed unanimously to pull the three, planned taxiways from the annual budget that begins July 1 and reschedule their construction during the next two fiscal years.