The Veterans Administration has given its approval for construction of a new national veterans' cemetery adjacent to the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia.

Rep. Herbert E. Harris II (D-Va.) said the 726-acre site will assure a burial close to home for the 700,000 veterans who live in the Washington area, most of whom are ineligible for burial at Arlington Cemetery, which is nearing its capacity.

The Quantico cemetery will be developed over the next 30 years, with the first 11 acres, containing 8,500 grave sites, to be ready by February 1981. Bids for construction of the first phase, estimated to cost $3.3 million, will be solicited next February, with work to begin in April, Harris said.

When completed in 2006, Quantico will have space for 244,000 graves. The cemetery will have a memorial center, veterans commemorative area, mausoleums, columbaria (for ashes), in-ground crypts and traditional grave sites. Total construction cost is estimated at $20 million.

Harris and Max Cleland, administrator of veterans affairs, traded compliments for the cooperation of the Congress in approving Harris-sponsored legislation that made possible the transfer of the land from the Marines to the VA at no cost to taxpayers.

"There will be virtually no restrictions (at Quantico) if you are a veteran," Harris said.

Carl T. Noll, chief memorial affairs director for the VA, said veterans with "anything better than a dishonorable discharge" and their spouses and dependent children will be eligible for burial at Quantico.

Burial at Arlington is restricted to active duty military personnel or veterans whose wife or child already is buried there, or those who are retired and have at least 30 percent disability or have been awarded the Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Purple Heart, Distinquished Service Cross or Distinguished Service Medal.

Even with those restrictions, Arlington is expected to reach its capacity by 2008, a spokesman said yesterday.

For veterans who do not meet the Arlington eligibility standards, the closest national cemeteries now are a small one in Culpeper, Va., and in Raleigh, N.C.

The new cemetery is just off Interstate Rte. 95 in Prince William County, 35 miles south of Washington. It is bounded by a country park, the Marine base and a national forest.

Noll said the VA began looking for a site in 1975 and after it rejected a dozen possible locations, Harris, in whose district Quantico is located, and the Marine Corps commandant flew over the area and agreed on it as a location. Harris said the decision has been "enthusiastically supported" by nearby residents and veterans groups.