For the District of Columbia, the Metro subway Green Line was to be part of a rebuilding program that would restore the center city Shaw and Cardozo areas after the 1968 riots and bring high-quality rapid transit to Anacostia for the first time.
For Prince George's County, the Green Line was supposed to invigorate fading neighborhoods in Hyattsville, College Park, Suitland and Branch Avenue and solve the employe transportation problem for the growing Suitland federal center.
Reality has not lived up to expectations for the neighborhood activits, politicians and government officials who have worked for more than a decade on the issue. The 18.86-mile Green Line, which some argue should have been the first built because it would serve the most disadvantaged sections of the Washington area, is last on the construction list and threatened with extinction.
Of all the goals, the only one that is virtually assured is rail transit to Anacostia. A short segment of the Green Line is on its way and has consumed $128.3 million in construction funds. It will run from the presently unused 7th Street NW level of the Gallery Place Station to a station near the Anacostia Freeway at Howard Road. That section, including new stations at the National Archives, the Waterfront and the Navy Yard, is scheduled to open in July 1986.
The rest of the line, from Rosecroft Raceway in southern Prince George's County to Greenbelt in the northern part of the country, is snared in a series of controversies -- some big, some little.
All the controversies concern the question of exactly where the Green Line is to run, and all must be resolved before it can be built."Until we get some preferences from the local governments [on where those routes go] we can't do anything," said Metro General Manager Richard S. Page.
It has been that way from the beginning for the Green Line, which was drawn on the map in 1968 along with the rest of Metro's 101-mile system.
"The mid-city [green] line should have been built first," said Jackson Graham, Metro's first general manager, during a recent interview. "Every time we would go to a public hearing, some strong-willed matriarch would stand up and say, 'You can't come up this street,' and we knew it wouldn't go up that street. So we'd draw another line, and hold another hearing."
The construction schedule followed the path of least resistance, and the Green Line kept being pushed farther back on the list.
Now there is a genuine concern, particularly in Maryland, that when Metro is through building the rest of the subway system, the Green Line still will be three to four from completion and other local governments will see no need to continue paying into the Metro construction kitty.
Larry Saban, regional representative of the Maryland Department of Transportation, which pays the Prince George's and Montgomery County shares of Metro construction costs, said that "We're looking for some insurance, some guarentees . . ." from Metro's Virginia and D.C. partners that they still will be there when the Green Line's turn comes.
Before Maryland will sign the contracts needed to continue any Metro construction after June 1981, those guarantees especially from Northern Virginia must be in place, Saban said. Thus, problems on the Green Line threaten the rest of the uncompleted Metro system as well.
The line is estimated today to cost slightly more than $2 billion, with completion due in 1980. That estimate assumes a modes and perhaps urealistic 8 percent inflation rate in the late years. A higher inflation rate -- and continued delay in both financing and decision-making could drive the cost much higher.
There are essentially two great problems and a myriad of little ones that must be solved before the full Green Line can be built. The big problem in D.C. is in the Fort Totten neighborhood in Northeast, where citizens want a planned elevated section of the railroad placed in a tunnel. The big problem in Prince George's County is a latter-day decision to change the entire route of the southern leg of the line. Construction of the new route will force the removal of many homes and threaten a historical area. When completed, trains will run close to bedroom windows and the line will come nowhere close to the Suitland Federal Center.
Everett Scott, a long-time [just east of the Fort Totten station]. We want a tunnel. They can build them escalators in certain areas of the city, there's no reason they can't build them here."
The tunnel would increase the cost of Metro by at least $100 million and is opposed by the federal Urban Mass Transportation Adminstration -- which provides 80 percent of the money for building Metro on the basis of cost alone.
It is obvious that this issue must be resolved if no other is, because the Green Line segment between Fort Totten and the Prince George's County line must be built to attach the county segment to the existing Metro system. Inevitably, Maryland will hold up approval of construction until the District of Columbia moves on solving the problem.
Douglas Schneider, former D.C. transportation director, promised residents near Fort Totten at a public hearing in 1978 that the line would be built in a tunnel. D.C. officials now, looking at a somewhat different fiscal picture than they were in 1978, talk of the need for "flexibility" in resolving that question. But nobody in the District of Columbia government has told Metro how to proceed.
The Rosecroft line presents Metro and the Prince George's County government with potential lawsuits almost from the point where it crosses Southern Avenue and leaves the District of Columbia. The first station in the county, Southern Avenue, will not be all that close to Southeast Community Hospital, where it belongs, and may require destruction of a portion of a Knights of Columbus lodge.
As the route head south along Barnaby Run on an elevated structure, the tracks will be "approximately 100 feet from the homes in the Hillcrest Heights Subdivision at window level and 200 feet from homes in the Woods subdivision," according to a Metro document. Ronald Hill owns one of those homes and has instituted adminstrative proceedings leading to a lawsuit, he said.
The line then cuts into a tunnel to cross St. Barnabas Road, but will pass close to the historic St. Barnabas Church, where members are interested in protecting their history and an old rectory, once occupied by the father of county council member Sue Mills. Metro says the line easily will miss both structures.
The line will not miss Bill Lenck's house, however, which he and his father built themselves, nor the other two houses the Lencks built, where Lenck's parents and his wife's parents live. Several other houses also will be taken for the station and parking lot. They will be among the 46 single-family homes, 20 apartments, 20 business structures and four other buildings whose occupants will be "displaced." A total of 195 people are affected, according to the draft envirnmental impact statement.
After St. Barnabas Road, the line will rise on an elevated structure to cross the Beltway, then proceed sharply downhill to the Rosecroft station, approximately 100 feet from the Brinkley apartments. According to a Metro document, "the alignment drops at a steep grade at a high rate of speed with braking into the station, making noise a significant factor . . ." The station will be at least as far from the raceway parking lot as the National Airport station is from the main terminal.
For 10 years, an entirely different route was shown on the Metro maps, a route that would have been taken the Green Line from the Southern Avenue station to the Suitland Federal Center, then to a terminal on Auth Road near Branch Avenue, an established business area.
When Metro's uncompleted lines were restudied in 1977 and 1978, the county council voted first to leave the line at Branch Avenue, then reversed itself under heavy political pressure and moved the line to Rosecroft. The council has reaffirmed that position in several votes. The Metro board, which follows local governments in these matters, officially has adopted the change.
Peter O'Malley, long-time county Democratic heavyweight and general counsel for the raceway, lobbied for Rosecroft along with many residents in the Indian Head Highway section of the county who could see they would get more convenient transit service from a station at Rosecroft, just outside the Beltway, than from one at Branch Avenue, just inside.
So in addition to angering Ronald Hill and Bill Lenck, the change to the Rosecroft terminal has discomfitted those who thought for years they were going to get a Metro line. For example, Bill Cairns Pontiac, according to court papers, spent almost $2 million to purchase land for an auto dealership near the end of the Branch Avenue line. Cairns and others are suing Metro in U.S. court in Baltimore.
That's not the only problem. The station sites on the Rosecroft line are accessible only to mountain goats. To make them accessible to automobiles, a county staff document estimates, $15.2 million will have to be spent for road improvements. The current plans call for 2,500 parking spaces at the stations; the estimated demand is for 10,500 parking spaces. Since there will be no rail to Suitland, an additional 72 buses will have to be purchased to provide transit service there.
Finally, since the lawsuits obviously are just beginning at Rosecroft, the District of Columbia cannot proceed with its routing from Anacostia to the Southern Avenue station. If the Branch Avenue line were to be reinstated, then the track inside D.C. would have to take a slightly different alignment.
The little problems, starting at Greenbelt and working south:
The College Park station, along the Chessie System tracks, will be accompanied by the closing of Calvert Road. An alternate road has to be found.
The route alignment through University Park to Prince George's Plaza has yet to be finalized, but Metro planners think they have found one that will minimize impact on that established residential community and provide good access to the major shopping center and office complex. Hearings are scheduled.
The West Hyattsville station will require the taking of a large number of units from the Kirkwood Apartments. Again, planners think they have found a way to reduce the number of units taken from several hundred to about 70.
The problem of how to get from Fort Totten to Columbia Heights is almost as fraught with peril as the one of how to get from Fort Totten to the Prince George's County line. Routes have been studied that use Rock Creek Church Road, Kansas Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue. All have advantages and disadvantages. All have well-prepared opponents. All must pass under some graves in the Rock Creek Cemetery, and lawsuits from that issue alone have been promised.
The line from Columbia Heights south to Gallery Place is pretty much nailed down, although there is some discussion within the District of Columbia government as to the best location for the entrances to the U Street Station.
While the Prince George's County government has begun to address itself, one problem at a time, to solving the problems on its sections of the Green Line, the D.C. government is making no visible progress. James Clark, acting director of the city's Department of Transportation, called the Green Line essential, but declined to be interviewed on the specifics of the problems there.
"What concerns me," said Metro's Page, "is that this [the Marion Barry] administration has been in office for two years, and we don't know what [exact routes] it would prefer -- and that's using up time and money."
The Rev. Jerry A. Moore Jr., a member of both the D.C. City Council and the Metro board, recently handed the Metro board a petition that he said contained the signatures of 1,000 D.C. residents urging early resolution of the issues and construction of the full Green Line. Moore hopes, he said, that as a result Metro and the District government can "get on with the business . . ."
If one assumes that the Green Line problems are solved on schedule, the section from Anacostia to Rosecroft would open in July 1987; the link from Fort Totten to Greenbelt would open in August 1988, and the segment between Gallery Place and Fort Totten -- the one that was going to help Shaw and Cardozo -- would open last, in February 1990.
John Protopappas, transportation planning specialist in the D.C. planning office (which is known to hold some different views from those in the Department of Transportation on routing and station issues), said, "We feel it definitely should be moving; otherwise we stand an excellent chance of not getting it."