CHEVERLY

Traffic Island Mulled

Frustrated by increased traffic, speeding and noise pollution, Cheverly officials are considering adding a center traffic island to narrow a one-mile residential strip that is popular with commuters. A new citizen task force will study speeding on Cheverly Avenue, which connects Route 202 to Route 50. The road is used frequently by commuters who are cutting through the two main roads.

The task force will look for ways to reduce high speed traffic, said David Warrington, the town's administrator.

The task force was set up by the Town Council because of residents' complaints.

Options for the task force to consider include painting a white line along the side of the road to delineate a side parking area, installing speed humps, installing curbs that jut into the street to slow traffic and placing planters in the center to create a boulevard feeling in the area.

"This is a way of empowering folks who it affects the most," Worthington said. "This is worth the investment to give these folks a piece of mind and address the issues that are important to them."

Three years ago, the town installed raised pedestrian walkways, similar to speed humps, and mounted banners reminding drivers that the posted speed limit is 25 mph.

But it hasn't been much of a deterrent. Vehicle speeds still have been registered at more than 70 mph, Warrington said.

"A lot of citizens think it [the banner] is a joke, and there's no enforcement," said Tanya Marshall, a University of Maryland graduate student and head of the town's new task force. "If you travel this route on a regular basis you know the cops aren't out here anymore, it's just not being enforced." Marshall says that after living on Cheverly Avenue for nearly 1 1/2 years she is frustrated with the constant noise and speeding.

"Within a couple of months of moving in, we realized the road was out of control," she said. "Last week, on a daily basis, there were an estimated 10,000 vehicles a day traveling on that road according to the State Highway Administration. About 80 Metro buses go by a day. That seems a little extreme."

Police Chief Gilbert Jones Jr. said the town's 13-member force has tried to crack down on speeding commuters by bringing in off-duty officers to use radar to catch speeders during rush hour. Since March, officers have given nearly 1,800 traffic citations or violations within the town limits, an average of more than 250 a month, Jones said.

"We've had a lot of complaining about speeding," Jones said. "But to be perfectly honest, we mostly have to rely on what residents tell us [about speeding problems]." Jones said nearly 75 percent of drivers caught speeding in Cheverly didn't live there.

Longtime resident Michael Piano said he's losing sleep over the problem.

"It's just horrendous," said Piano, 64, who has lived on Cheverly Avenue for more than 30 years. "At my age and my season in life, it's just very, very difficult. I would have moved out if I had been able to afford to. If I get sick, I have to check in somewhere else to get rest. In the morning . . . it's like a war zone."

Residents say they also fear for children, who frequently walk along the street on their way to school.

Task force officials say they hope to have preliminary suggestions reported to the Town Council as early as January.

Residents interested in joining the task force can call the town offices at 301-773-8360. They also can visit a Web site Marshall created.

The address is www.wam.umd.edu/~tlm/CARES.html.

COLLEGE PARK

Election Challenge

The city's Board of Elections is looking into claims of problems with the recent City Council elections, its top official said.

The investigation comes after defeated District 2 candidate Marie L. Labonte said that incumbent council member Lisa A. Blevins-Steel (District 1) does not actually live in her district.

The city charter requires members of the council to live in the district they represent.

Labonte claims Blevins-Steel has not been living at her home on 10002 51st Ave. for nearly a year, and has been living in the Tecumseh Gardens apartment complex on Tecumseh Avenue in District 2.

In a letter addressed to Miriam Wolff, city clerk, Labonte says several issues that must be addressed in the investigation include whether or not Blevins-Steel was a qualified candidate in this year's election.

Blevins-Steel maintains she still resides within her district and said Labonte's claims are "mudslinging."

"My residence is 10002 51st Ave," she said. "That's where my children live, that is where my voter registration is, that's where my driver's license says I live. I have never abandoned my domicile. . . . As far as where I lay my head every night, that's my business. When you specify your residence, that's your residence."

Blevins-Steel says she can prove her residence by providing copies of her voter registration card, bills, her mortgage and other information that indicates she lives at the house. The Tecumseh Gardens apartment is listed under the name of her husband, Derrick, she said.

The challenge may force Board of Elections Chief Supervisor John Robson along with city attorney to define what constitutes a residence.

"This is nothing but mudslinging tactics," Blevins-Steel said. "I am 100 percent sure I will be sitting in this seat for the next two years."

Council member Sherrill T. Murray (District 1), who lost her seat to Mark D. Shroder, said: "It isn't about overturning the election. It's about an attempt to air the process. At worst, it's election fraud, at best, it's voter deception."

A decision is expected sometime soon, officials said.

If you have an item for Prince George's Towns, please let us know. E-mail to pgextra@washpost.com, fax to 301-952-1397 or call The Washington Post's Prince George's Bureau at 301-952-1391.