The Maryland Department of Transportation wants to put the Metro subway line to Greenbelt in one place; The Prince George's County Council wants to put it in another. It will be easier for the District of Columbia if much of the line is never built and it could be replaced with an old-fashioned commuter train.
The Greenbelt line, one of four in the planned 100-mile Metro system that is being restudied by a regional task force, probably presents the toughest political choice.
The line is seen as the salvation of one District of Columbia neighborhood, but as a threat to the stability of another. The state of Maryland sees the route it wants as the solution to a major transportation problem, but Prince George's County regards that route as a cap on its growing economic aspirations.
Finally, there is a vociferous citizen lobby of single-family taxpaying home owners who want absolutely nothing in the way of improved public transportation.
That group is offset by another, calling itself Pro-Metro, that is fighting for a complete system. The Greenbelt Town Council wants Metro; the College Park council does not.
The Greenbelt Line is supposed to begin in the Gallery Place Station on the existing Red Line. The Greenbelt Line - the Green-Yellow Line - is scheduled to go north under 7th Street NW to U Street, west to about Irving, the planned Columbia Heights Station. The line could well terminate right there, because that is where the opposition begins.
Present Metro maps call for the Green-Yellow line to swing northeast from Columbia Heights, then run under Kansas Avenue to Farragut Street and out Farragut and Galloway Streets to Prince George's County. The line again would intersect the Red Line at the Fort Totten Station, which is scheduled to open Feb. 6.
There are two fights in the District of Columbia; whether to go under Kansas Avenue or to move south to New Hampshire Avenue or even farther south to Rock Creek Church Road along the Soldiers Homes. The other fight is whether to make the line a subway or an elevated at Fort Totten, where there is a nice neighborhood park that residents have become fond of and feel would be defaced by overhead railroad tracks.
The line then wanders through West Hyattsville and up to Prince George's Plaza. There is little disagreement on that stretch. Then the big fight begins.
The Maryland Department of Transportation wants to go north from Prince George's Plaza on Adelphi Road and University Boulevard - essentially west of the University of Maryland - and terminate the line at the Beltway and its intersection with Interstate 95.
Prince George's County wants the line to follow the present maps: from Prince George's Plaza to College Park to Greenbelt alongside existing B&O railroad tracks.
Thos tracks now carry three commuter trains from Baltimore to Union Station that stop at suburban Maryland stations. Early investigation by the regional task force has shown that trains could be run every 15 minutes during rush hour from Laurel into Union Station - thus substantially improving the existing service. It would not be as good as Metro, it would be cheaper and citizens would have access to Metro at Union Station on the existing Red Line.
However, the commuter train would provide no rapid transit service to Prince George's Plaza - an area the county would like to serve with rail and a job-producing area the District of Columbia would like its citizens to be able to reach easily.
While the study continues over the next few weeks as the regional task force nears its recommendations, here is a scorecard on the major battles: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
The District of Columbia government badly wants the line as far north as Columbia Heights. It would travel through two riot corridors - 7th and 14th Streets NW. D.C. officials hope the subway would provide economic stimulus for recovery.
The Kansas Avenue route from Columbia Heights to Fort Totten has been virtually abandoned in the minds of city officials because it would require the taking of many homes between 18th and 14th Streets. Further, New Hampshire Avenue is wider than Kansas Avenue, thus less underpinning would be required of homes along the avenue as Metro tunnelers proceeded.
However, there is significant citizen opposition to the New Hampshire Avenue route. A group called Neighbors United To Save Our Homes wants the route either to stop at Columbia Heights or be pushed further south - through the Soldiers Home area.
"The route serves no useful purpose," said Benjamin Spaulding, co-chairman of Neighbors United and a resident of New Hampshire Avenue. "I'd still have to take a bus to the Georgia Avenue Station . . ." If the line must be built, Spaulding said, it should go through the Soldiers Home or along Rock Creek Church Road. The District of Columbia government is seeking a study of that route.
Farther out, at Fort Totten, the citizens there want the trains to run underground. President maps call for subway to the west side of the Fort Totten station, but elevated to the east. Extra cost of putting the elevated section under the park instead of through it: about $70 million.
There is also a waiting game. If Prince George's County cannot decide to go all the way to the Beltway with a Metro route - it doesn't matter to the District of Columbia which one - then D.C. sees no reason to go to Fort Totten. That is because ridership estimates show that a Beltway terminal for the Metro is necessary to make the cost of the line beyond Columbia Heights worth it.
"We get only one station beyond Columbia Heights (at Georgia Avenue) in the District of Columbia," a top D.C. official said."Without a Beltway terminal in Prince George's, there is no reason for us to fight that battle on where to put the route through northeast or to fund a tunnel at Fort Totten." PRINCE GEORGES COUNTY
The Maryland Department of Transportation wants the line to go from Prince George's Plaza to the west of the University of Maryland, then to the Beltway at its intersection with I-95. That alignment would provide quick access to Byrd Stadium-Cole Field House and the Maryland Adult Education Centre.
It also would attract many automobiles at the Beltway and I-95, and would keep much I-95 traffic off the Beltway. Of all the alternatives sut-died so far by the regional task force, this one generates the most Metro ridership - although not by much over what the country wants.
The County Council is united in opposition to the I-95 alignment. There could be no development around the University of Maryland or Beltway stations. However, in the county's preferred alignment, the College Park and Greenbelt stations would both be high-level development attractions. Further, upgrading of the somewhat tired looking section near the College Park station would accompany Metro, officials feel.
There also is a significant political movement centered in the subdivision nearest the I-95 Beltway station that wants no more Metro anywhere. "I honestly believe we are trying to solve a 20th century problem with an 18th century system," said Dan Miller, one of the leaders of that group. He cites rising Metro costs and decreasing population densities in the region to buttress his arguments.
County Council member Parris dustry to other area jurisdictions be Glendening said, "I feel strongly that I've got to urge the null," or no-build alternative. "That does not mean no rail transit - we could use that commuter train every 15 minutes," he said.
At the same time, Glendening said, the county could not afford to be in the position of losing potential new industry to other area jurisdictions because it did not have good rail transit.
It's a tough political question, he said. "Anyone who gets into the posture of increasing the property tax to pay for Metro is dead," Glendening said. "Also, if nothing is done (to improve public transit) and there's another energy crisis, he's also dead."
Because of the many problems north of Columbia Heights, the Greenbelt route problem may just be too hard. "I wouldn't say it's dead," County Council Chairman Francis White said yesterday, "but it's troubled."