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    Guard Rails Installed

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    By Lindsay Pugh

    It is 2:25 on a Wednesday afternoon, and students are half-listening to the announcements over the loudspeaker and discussing Homecoming and homework. The minute Marvin Massenburg, Jr.’s name is mentioned, the classroom goes silent. It’s not until the speaker moves on to bus changes the talking resumes.

    All of Prince George is familiar with the story. On Sept. 25 Massenburg pulled over onto the shoulder of Courthouse Road to allow a police officer to pass. His car slid into Blackwater Swamp and Massenburg could not be saved. The most tragic aspect of Marvin Massenburg’s death is how easily preventable it was. A simple guardrail blocking the swamp from the road would have deflected the car.

    That is why the Virginia Department of Transportation has undertaken the project of installing guardrails on either side of Courthouse Road where the swamp runs parallel to the road. Without delay, VDOT conducted a review of the site and decided a guardrail was warranted.

    “We began immediately,” VDOT spokesperson Sundra Hominik said. “We began to prep the site within a week of the review.”

    Prince George High School students are hugely supportive of the project, though they regret the cost for VDOT to take action.

    “I feel like there should have been guardrails there before the accident,” senior Joy Arakelian said. “It [is] sad we needed an accident to realize [the danger].”

    Though Courthouse Road is traveled daily by many students, VDOT has no record of anyone petitioning for a guardrail on Courthouse Road through 1975.

    “Any place with [exposed] water is unsafe,” Arakelian said. “There still may be other places in the county that need to be looked at.”

    Arakelian is not the only one to lament the timing of the project.

    “It [is] about time,” Massenburg’s friend and bandmate, senior Jon Ryan Campbell, said. “The water is so deep there they should have done something before.”

    “It [is] unfortunate it was too late; it’s been needed a long time,”  junior Hannah Tjomsland said.

    Students were not the only ones impacted by the accident.

    “Having a child who will soon be driving makes it hit really close to home,” Mother Denise Covington, whose daughter is a sophomore, said. “It only takes a second for a tragedy to occur.”

    Covington travels Courthouse Road every day and has often wondered why there were no guardrails on the road.  Covington in fact passed through the road the day of the accident, but made a route change that lead to her family being several minutes earlier than they usually are.

    “I really [cannot] explain why we made a diversion that day; if not we may have witnessed the accident or been caught up in it,” Covington said.

    Though many students feel the project’s progress is going slowly, it should be completed within weeks, according to Hominik.

    “The work is based on a number of factors, like weather, so there is not an exact date. We expect it to be done soon.”

    “They should do it as fast as they can,” Tjomsland said. “Another accident can happen.”

    Sophomore Sydney Bakke agreed, but empathized with VDOT.

    “I think it’s important [to finish] but it also costs money and they have to follow their budget,” Bakke said. “I’ll feel much safer when I begin to drive knowing no one else will crash or run off the road on Courthouse Road after the guardrails are put up.”

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