About 100 Prince George's County residents attended a public forum last week on Metro's proposed F-Route, which will run above-ground from Anacostia in the District to the county's Branch Avenue corridor.
In sharp contrast to the heated debate the night before on the Greenbelt line, the 2-hour meeting at Potomac High School in Barnaby Village was sedate. About 20 speakers, some representing citizens' associations with memberships numbering in the hundreds, unemotionally listed the justifications for a Metrorail line convenient to their neighborhood.
Both forums were prompted by a federal order requiring a study of alternatives to about 30 unfunded miles of Metrorail system. Similar forums have been held for unfunded lines in Virginia.
Although county planners offered five alternative alignments for comment, speakers focused primarily on two the Wheeler Road and Suitland Parkway alignments.
Support for the two proposals was divided along community lines with each faction favoring a route "near but not on top of" its neighborhood.
Residents of the Oxon Hill area - clearly in the majority - said a line to nearby Rosecroft Raceway, as proposed under the Wheeler Road alignment, is the only route that will meet the rapidly developing south-county area.
They buttressed their arguments with planning consultants' figures, which estimated that the Wheeler Road alignment would have 2-million more riders by 1990 than the Suitland Parkway alignment.
Residents of Camp Springs near Suitland Parkway, accused the "Oxon Hill lobby" of "bulldozing the Wheeler Road alignment through to construction, oblivious to the fact that the alignment would destroy the area's few open spaces remaining inside the Capital Beltway."
Running the Metrorail along the median strip of Suitland Parkway, as planned in the parkway alignment, they said, would conserve open space and would serve federal employment centers at Suitland and Andrews Air Force Base.
Sue Mills, a member of the county schoold board who lives on Woodland Boulevard near Wheeler Road, said she opposed the F-Route, regardless of its alignment.
She added that she was "not only opposed, but bitterly opposed" to the Wheeler Road proposal. The plan,she said, would take the homes of people who had lived in the area for more than 30 years, would threaten the historic St. Barnabas Church and its surrounding green space and would make the heavily traveled residential streets in the St. Barnabas Road area "impossible."
Forum chairman Kenneth Collins, of the county Department of Program Planning and Economic Development, said elected officials, who will make the final decision on the route, were evenly divided on which alignment to support.
One county planner added that the strong support for the Wheeler Road alignment would "go a long way toward assuring its construction."
A final decision on the F-Route is expected in about 18 months. At that time, property owners along the approved route will be notified of a new round of hearings on the "nitty-gritty" aspects of the alignment.
The Wheeler Road alignment roughly follows Wheeler Road into the county with stations at Alabama Avenue, Southern Avenue, St. Barnabus Road, and Rosecroft Raceway (Brinkley Road).
The route mirrors the rapid-transit line shown on the county's 1964 General Plan, and planners see the route as the most "extendable," by rail or highwat, into the southern-most sections of the county.
Under the proposal, commuters east of Branch Avenue would be served by bus lines along Suitland Parkway and Pennsylvania Avenue, running to the Anocostia Station.
Summaries of consultant's reports on the five proposed F-Route alignments are available at tall Prince George's County libraries.