Transportation study highlights top priorities to improve travel in city
By ELLEN TREIMEL — As the city of Hyattsville continues to grow, residents and civic leaders alike have expressed their interest in developing and improving transportation options to ease travel for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. The city has been working with the Toole Design Group since the fall to identify strategies to make Hyattsville “a place where anyone, regardless of age, background, or ability, can travel safely, comfortably, and affordably,” according to the Hyattsville Transportation Plan: Draft Final Report.
One aspect of transportation improvements that was not included in this plan is consideration for the inclusion of a circulator bus connecting key points of the city. This idea was originally proposed last year by Mike Bello and Brian Wilson, two Hyattsville residents, along with a draft route and funding suggestions. At the May 21 city council meeting, the council approved expanding its contract with Toole Design Group to conduct a circulator feasibility study. An exact timeline for the feasibility study has not yet been established.
The Transportation Plan relies upon Hyattsville’s Community Sustainability Plan, which is a framework for the city’s future growth and evolution. The Transportation Plan has six goals, which align with the goals laid out in the Sustainability Plan: improve safety along major roads; enhance and increase safe connectivity for pedestrians; improve traffic flow within neighborhoods; strengthen connectivity for cyclists; support development around the Metro stations and Gateway Arts District; and support environmentally friendly, sustainable growth.
Those six goals informed the identification of eight policies that will be used as the city moves to improve its transportation network. These policies focus on the improvement of traffic flow, road design to promote bicycle and pedestrian safety, accessibility from metro stations to other city districts, and better integration of trail systems.
During the development of the Draft Final Transportation Plan, 51 different projects were identified. A prioritization scale was developed to rank the projects, as undertaking all of them at once would be a dubious task. In addition, future transportation projects can be ranked using the same system, so that they can be integrated into the existing list of identified projects. The metrics used to identify the highest priority transportation improvements in the city consider how to improve safety on major roads, safe connectivity for pedestrians, improve traffic flow within neighborhoods, strengthen connectivity for cyclists, support the Metro stations and Gateway Arts District, and support sustainable growth.
There are 10 projects in the plan that the study has designated as priority projects for the city to focus on. These 10 projects feature street redesigns, new road connections, installing multi-use paths, new traffic signals and changes to signal timing.
The top priority project, based on points, is the Hamilton Street Complete Street Design and Construction. Hamilton Street, which is a state highway and a major connection between the West Hyattsville Metro station, Queens Chapel Town Center, and Magruder Park, has long stretches without sidewalks, no bicycle accommodations, and has an overly wide design that encourages speeding and unsafe driving behavior, the Toole Design Group found. To ensure that this street is safe and comfortable for all users, the study found that Hamilton Street should be redesigned as a “complete street,” with bike lanes, ample and continuous sidewalks, additional pedestrian crossings and narrower motor vehicle lanes. This would require coordination with Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA) or possibly require the city to take over control and ownership of the street.
Another priority is to install pedestrian/bicycle actuated signals on the Northwest Branch Trail where it crosses major streets at 38th Street and at Queens Chapel Road. These signals give people traveling on foot or bike a safe way to cross busy roads, providing a red signal that alerts drivers that they must stop.
The plan also advises adding multi-use paths on East-West Highway from Toledo Terrace to 23rd Avenue and Toledo Terrace to Adelphi Road. East-West Highway is a key east-west connection through the city, but is largely inaccessible to people traveling by bike because there are currently no bicycle facilities on or parallel to this street, according to the draft transportation plan.
Traffic signal changes could improve traffic flow and cut down on backups. The plan suggests studying a traffic signal change at the intersection of East-West Highway and Belcrest Road.
A lack of street connections between East-West Highway, Ager Road, and Queens Chapel Road force residents on long, circuitous paths to make local trips, encouraging people to drive and generating additional traffic congestion, the report states. A new street from the end of Toledo Terrace to Heurich Park Road (or 31st Avenue) would significantly improve traffic flow and circulation, particularly for local trips. The plan suggests a study to connect Toledo Terrace to Heurich Park Road.
It was recently announced that the MSHA is planning to install a traffic signal on Queens Chapel Road at Nicholson Street, which is one of the top priorities of the plan. Queens Chapel Road is currently the longest stretch in the city without a signalized intersection, at 1.5 miles. People on foot or bike must travel far out of their way to cross at a signal, or risk their safety crossing against the light. The plan also proposes installing a new traffic signal on Ager Road at Lancer Drive, which would create safe crossings for people on foot or bike, while improving circulation within the neighborhoods. A Lancer Drive signal would also create access to the new residential development currently under construction west of the Metro station. As Ager Road is a county route, this would require coordination with Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation.
Rounding out the 10 priority projects is a “pedestrian plaza” connecting 33rd Avenue to Editors Park Drive, a dead-end street. Turning the current path between the two streets into a plaza would create a new public open space and could encourage more walking and biking to the Mall at Prince Georges area, in turn increasing safety with more pedestrian activity and eyes on the street.
A draft final version of the Hyattsville Transportation Plan was recently posted on the Speak Up HVL website. Residents are encouraged to review the full plan and map of proposed projects and submit comments no later than June 15.
The full presentation by Toole Design Group is available online. Digital Editor Krissi Humbard contributed to this story.