Sign of change: Nicholson St. to receive traffic signal

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BY MARIA D. JAMES — Applause filled the room inside the Municipal Building on Jan. 17, when Gregory Slater, administrator of the Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) State Highway Administration, announced that a traffic light will go up at the intersection of Nicholson Street and Queens Chapel Road. Slater, along with fellow project managers and traffic engineers from MDOT, attended the community meeting to discuss the status of construction and provide some solutions to ongoing concerns about traffic and street access.

The meeting was organized by Councilmember Edouard Haba (Ward 4), and hosted by the Hyattsville Corridor Community (HCC). HCC was established by Yvette Shaw, a 27-year resident of Hyattsville, and a group of residents to address safety issues and living conditions in Hyattsville and along Queens Chapel Road.

Slater summarized concerns discussed during previous task force meetings, including the traffic light at Nicholson Street, driver and pedestrian access to several streets along Queens Chapel Road and plans for a signal light analysis.

After previous meetings, Slater and his team had targeted changes the community wanted that could be acted upon quickly. “This is a classic example of a project that for years and years we worked on this for the community, but we have a lot of new community members, so as things change, projects change,” said Slater. “We went back and redid the signal warrants at Nicholson; we’re going to put a signal there, a crosswalk there and pedestrian crossing.”

Slater told meeting attendees about this new light, and their reaction was enthusiastic. After the applause subsided, someone asked if the traffic light will include a left-turn signal. Slater’s team asked for input from residents on the topic, and their overwhelming response was in favor of adding the turn signal.

“What’s most important in the street planning, the residents’ safety, or people getting through Hyattsville to other places? Where is the balance?” asked Frank Key, who has lived in Hyattsville for 50 years.

Another resident expressed concerns that the new signal may increase traffic on Nicholson Street. Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth responded that the traffic study would evaluate the light’s impact on traffic.

Residents and city officials worked together for seven years on this traffic signal project, and residents impacted by the change are excited. Nicholson Street resident Paul Steinkoenig said, “From the start, we talked about the need for a stoplight at the corner of Nicholson and Queens Chapel. So we are thrilled that the light is actually coming to be a reality. We are very pleased and appreciative to think that our request for improved safety on Nicholson Street is being answered. Many meetings, phone calls, emails and text messages later, and the traffic light is becoming a reality. I am so pleased.”

A Hyattsville resident discusses the construction map with Gregory Slater, administrator of the Maryland department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration.

Steinkoenig thanked Rebecca Bennett, who worked to establish the Nicholson Neighbors watch group in 2014, for her role in the process. He also acknowledged Abudu Abiodan, community liaison for the construction project, and Councilmember Shani Warner (Ward 2) for “helping to get the ball rolling for me two and a half years ago.” In a 2015 letter to Warner, Steinkoenig described frequently hearing car accidents at the intersection. He also recounted an accident in which his wife’s car was totaled by a hit-and-run driver.

According to an MDOT spokesperson, plans for the traffic signal are 30 percent complete and will be finished this spring. The traffic signal should be installed by summer.

“Everyone is part of the process,” said MDOT District Engineer Brian Young. “We want to hear the concerns and try to address them.”

To continue the conversation, residents are encouraged to attend the next Hyattsville Corridor Community meeting on Feb. 15, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., in the Prangley Room, at 4310 Gallatin Street. For more information or to RSVP, email hyattsvillecc@gmail.com.

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