More than half of Prince George's County's state legislators have asked Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes to delay state funding for a Metro line in the southern part of the county pending a comprehensive review of the proposed route.
The county government has voted several times to extend Metro's Green Line from Anacostia station to Rosecroft Raceway in southern Prince George's. But Hughes and State Transportation Secretary James O'Donnell must give their approval before the state can provide construction funds.
In a letter sent to Hughes yesterday, 14 of Prince George's delegates to the state legislature asked that approval of the line to Rosecroft be postponed until the state can conduct its own review of the line and its impact on the county.
The letter initiated by Del. Lorraine M. Sheehan, an opponent of the Rosecroft alignment who would like to see Metro tracks run along Branch avenue farther north, was part of a last-ditch effort to persuade Hughes and O'Donnell not to support the county government's decision in favor of Rosecroft.
O'Connell is expected to recommend later this week that Hughes support the county position, a recommendation that the governor is likely to accept, state officials said.
The Rosecroft alignment has been a source of controversy for over a year. Since the County Council first voted two years ago to extend Metro to the race track instead of along Branch Avenue, allegations of political pressure have continually surfaced.
Proponents of the Branch Avenue alignment have accused the all-Democratic County Council of being improperly influenced by Peter O'Malley, a former Democratic Party leader who is an attorney for the Rosecroft raceway. The council and O'Malley have denied the accusation.
The proponents have also charged that studies of the two Green Line alternatives distorted ridership, construction and operating figures in favor of the Rosecroft alignment.
Six weeks ago, Sheehan and other critics of Rosecroft asked O'Donnell to investigate these possible irregularities and his study has delayed state approval of the alignment.
Sheehan said that if Hughes chooses not to reexamine the Metro line, "then we (the Rosecroft opponents) will go into Phase II, which is filing several lawsuits."
Prince George's officials said they hope Hughes will not delay state approval of the county's decision in favor of Rosecroft.
"We had a lengthy delay before" when the entire Metro system was analyzed two years ago, "and another two years' delay as a result of additional studies may well mean the death of the (Rosecroft) route," said County Administrative Officer Kenneth V. Duncan. "I think it would be a disaster for the southern part of country."
County Council Chairman Parris Glendening said, "It would be a bad precedent if the state overruled local decision-making."