Letter to the Editor: Queens Chapel Road backstory

April 10, 2013

Barbara RunionBY BARBARA J. RUNION — I read with interest Hugh Turley’s column “After 25 years, is it time to reopen Queens Chapel?” [July 2013]. Over 25 years ago, I formed Citizens to Reopen Queens Chapel Road, an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. John Hammette of University Park, John T. O’Leary of College Park and Nelson Minnich of Hyattsville were officers of the corporation and I served as secretary-treasurer. We had many brainstorming meetings in an effort to reopen the closed portion of Queens Chapel Road.

Queens Chapel Road (MD-500) was constructed as the original MD-210 from Washington to Hyattsville in 1910. MD-500 was built from Hyattsville through University Park to U.S. Route 1 in the early 1930s and then assumed the course of MD-210 in the mid-1940s. MD-500 was truncated at MD-410 when University Park took over the highway prior to the construction of the Metro Green Line through the town in the late 1980s.

There was an outpouring of support from the Hyattsville community and beyond to reopen the closed portion of Queens Chapel Road. Numerous public hearings were conducted. I recall one in particular where a resident of University Park said, “You can’t reopen Queens Chapel Road — my children play in that road!” The level of arrogance demonstrated by the “road closers” was over the top.

As secretary-treasurer of Citizens to Reopen Queens Chapel Road, I received hundreds of heartbreaking letters (many from senior citizens) pleading that the closed section be reopened due to hardships experienced by having to travel so far out of the way to access U.S. Route 1. Many of the letters included checks of various denominations in support of reopening Queens Chapel Road to help cover costs incurred by the organization which lobbied long and hard to reopen the road. Over 90 percent of Hyattsville residents were in favor of reopening Queens Chapel Road and ironically there were some University Park residents who also wanted the road reopened along with residents of College Park.

The bottom line in the truncation of Queens Chapel Road was politics. Property values were projected to increase with the road closure due to less traffic. University Park politicians and residents saw dollar signs by closing the road to traffic and staged a major coup d’état. In the end, the politicians won and the overwhelming majority of area residents in support of reopening Queens Chapel Road lost.

It didn’t matter how many hundreds of signatures were on the petitions, nor how many gut-wrenching letters and checks were received by area residents, or how many local residents spoke at public hearings in support of reopening Queens Chapel Road. It wasn’t a fair fight and as a result the people lost to power-hungry and greedy politicians.

Barbara J. Runion