More than 900 shouting, jeering people told Metro officials this week they do not like the route planned for the subway near Prince George's Plaza shopping center and through the neighboring town of University Park.
At a Metro-sponsored hearing to solicit public comment on one portion of the Metro E route, which eventually will extend from the Gallery Place station in the District to Greenbelt, residents said the route will eliminate homes, displace families and the elderly who have paid off their mortgages and ruin the quiet, tree-shaded community they prize.
Arlene Christiansen, whose home is slated to be destroyed by the subway, told Metro officials, "We bought our home 2 1/2 years ago. Before that, there were eight moves in nine years of married life. We don't want to move."
Residents said the route would destroy most of Kirkwood, an apartment complex populated largely by elderly citizens on fixed incomes who can afford its reasonable rents. The residents also objected to Metro's proposed pass under Queens Chapel Road through University Park, which would mean the certain destruction of four homes and the possible destruction of another dozen.
Many said while they oppose any route through their town, they would support an alternate course proposed by John J. Pallas, a civil engineer who lives in University Park. That route would disturb no homes take Metro along a creek bed through town-owned park land, Pallas said.
Nearly 60 people had signed up to speak. Metro board member Francis B. Francois, who also is a Prince George's County Council member, said the hearing would be extended to the following evening to accommodate them all. t
Democratic State Delegates Thomas J. Mooney and Anthony Cicoria, both University Park residents, said they would support Pallas' plan. By the end of the evening, Prince George's County Council Chairman Parris N. Glendening was predicting the county would demand Metro study the plan.
According to existing plans, contractors would bore a tunnel under Queens Chapel Road from the intersection of East-West Highway to Underwood Street, where it would swing eastward under Rhode Island Avenue and on to the B&O Railroad tracks.
Metro officials concede the path would require demolishing four homes at Queens Chapel Road near East-West Highway. Another 12 would have to be vacated during construction because of possible damage to the foundations.
University Park Mayor Ruth Lutwak warned that because "a substantial number of houses would be vacant . . . the town will have the responsibility of protecting those houses from vandals."
In the past Metro has bought houses that had to be vacated during subway construction. The transit authority then repaired and sold the homes when construction was completed. Displaced families who receive full market value for their homes are eligible for up to an additional $15,000 to cover higher interest rates and today's higher housing prices.
"I don't even have the right of first refusal to buy back from Metro a home I just spent 25 years paying for," complained Richard Hays, who said he finished paying off his mortgage only weeks before Metro said he would be required to sell his home to the transit agency.
Officials said it was possible the University Park area homes could be temporarily vacated and reoccupied by the owners after construction, although it has never been done before.
"There seems to be a popular belief that if a home is acquired by WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro), the homeowner makes out like a bandit," said Susan Robbins, whose home is in the subway's path.
However, she said, the difference on a $50,000, 20-year mortgage at today's interest rates as compared to an 8 1/2 percent interest rate is nearly $90,000 in interest alone. "Your flat fee of $15,000 is pretty laughable," she said.
Metro official John J. Donahue said a bill before Congress would double that amount but unless it passes, Metro is prohibited by law from paying more. t
Laura Robbins, 12, related comments she had solicited from other community children including: "I really don't want Metro to come through because it is a very nice block and I like my friends."
Pallas' route would move the proposed Metro station to a site just northeast of Prince George's Plaza in front of buildings that house federal offices. He said previous Metro site studies showed this to be the preferred location. hThe move would save the Kirkwood apartments, he said. From there, the route would travel under park land through University Park, cross Rhode Island Avenue near the present site of an armory and a post office to join the B&O railroad tracks for the trip north to Greenbelt. Pallas said his proposal would cost only slightly more.
Officials of neighboring Hyattsville and Riverdale warned they would not support the alternate route if it affected their towns.
"Unfortunately, (Metro) ends up pitting community against community," Glendenning said.