Members of the Hyattsville City Council raised concerns Monday when State Highway Administration representatives updated them on proposed changes to MD 500, or Queens Chapel Road, between East West Highway in the north and Hamilton Street in the south.
Under the SHA’s Community, Safety and Enhancement Program, three major changes have been proposed. The project will provide a dedicated bicycle lane labeled by pavement markings and signs, reconstruct the curb to add a 60-inch-wide sidewalk and raise medians between the four northbound and southbound lanes that run throughout the main road, which design engineer Joshua Dupee said will stop drivers coming out of the Queens Chapel Town Center from making illegal U-turns.
“This is a very dangerous situation. A lot of accidents have almost happened, and I’m sure they have happened,” said Dupree at the council meeting. “So having a full-length median all the way down through there will force the individuals coming out of the town center to go through the traffic lights.”
Part of the project calls for making the three median access points at Manor Wood Drive and Oliver Street emergency vehicle access only, prohibiting traffic to cross Queens Chapel Road and forcing motorists, instead, to make their turns at the traffic lights. The move would also allow clear space to increase the queue length of the northbound left turn-lane at Belcrest Road to help get traffic out of the through lanes.
Though the intent is to reduce the frequency of accidents caused by the poor sight distance at those intersections, Councilor Ruth Ann Frazier (Ward 4) said that closing Oliver Street will only result in adding more traffic to the already high-volume intersection at Nicholson Street, which she argued has an even higher accident rate.
“Right up that hill is Nicholson Street, and the accidents that have occurred at Nicholson Street over the years, to my knowledge, far surpass Oliver,” she said.
Coucilor Paula Perry (Ward 5) voiced her agreement with Frazier and suggested that the real solution is to make two left-turn lanes at the Belcrest intersection to prevent traffic from frequently backing up all the way up the hill to Nicholson Street. “That’s what’s going to solve the problem at Belcrest and I don’t understand why it can’t be done,” she said.
Dupee assured the council that the task force analyzed a mix of accident statistics and geometrics surveys in deciding which intersection were consider safe and which were considered dangerous due to the lack of sight distance. But upon hearing Frazier’s concern, he noted that they would take another look at the accident reports.
He also voiced the administration’s concern that using two turn-lanes would result in cars being sideswiped by buses that need a large amount of space to turn left from Queens Chapel Road onto Belcrest Road, whose skewed angle make the maneuver more difficult.
During public comments, residents also gave their input on the project. Resident and city activist David Marshall bluntly called the proposed idea “stupid.”
“It takes no consideration at all for the folks who live adjacent to this road, who live in this community [and] who use this road,” he said. “I was curious to know out of the folks listed on this handout, how many either live in this community or frequently travel through it back and forth to work?”