About 180 people from the Avondale, West Hyattsville, University Park and College Park neighborhoods filled the Mount Rainier Junior High School auditorium last week to debate the alternative routes proposed for the Metro green line scheduled to come their way by 1984.
More than half the citizens who attended the public hearing, the last one before the Metro board decides early next year which route the subway will take from the northeasst border of Washington to Prince George's Plaza, had one purpose: to save the 30-year-old Kirkwood apartments in West Hyattsville from Metro's path.
The 750-unit complex lies in a quarter-circle on the map between Ager Road on the northeast and Lancer Drive on the south with the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River curving around its outer perimeter. Metro officials estimate that 257 apartments in more than 30 buildings would have to be demolished to make way for the proposed 1.8-mile stretch of the line known as the "S-curve" route and the parking lots for the West Hyattsville Station. An estimated 765 residents would be displaced.
Albert J. Roohr, a senior urban planner with Metro, said that if the 257 units are demolished, the action "would (possibly be) the largest chunk of apartments that Metro has taken to date."
Residents and supporters of the Kirkwood, led by Neighborhoods Uniting Project Inc., a federally funded coalition of residents from 13 communities in the northwestern part of the county, and State Sen. John Garrity (D-Dist. 22) spoke fervently for the route they call Alternate 1, their own modification of the S-curve stretch of track.
Alternate 1 would completely bypass the apartments by shifting the track and the location of the West Hyattsville station a few hundred yards south and east. Metro officials said this route would cost $500,000 more to build and $300,000 more per year to operate than "Alternate 1A," a third route designed by the Washington Metropolitan Area-Transit Authority (WMATA). d
Alternate 1A would require the destruction of only 88 Kirkwood units, according to Roohr. It would cost less to operate because it calls for a slightly wider curve that can be negotiated at 55 miles per hour instead of 50 needed to safetly negotiate Alternate 1.
"That 5 mph difference is only 10 seconds," said Kirkwood resident Vincent Mathews, one of more than 30 speakers who signed up to testify. "It's a small difference in time and a great difference in human impact."
Garrity recalled for the crowd that he lived in the Kirkwood for seven years during the 1950s, when a two-bedroom apartment rented for $68 a month.
"This is the type of rental facility that Prince George's County needs, I was most pleased to live at the Kirkwood apartments. Every single unit needs to be saved and preserved," said Garrity.
Some speakers argued for a fourth route that has been on the drawing board since 1968, well before the S-curve was designed. That route would avoid Avondale entirely and allow a local company, M.S. Ginns, to complete expansion plans threatened by any S-curve route.
There were also a number of College Park and University Park residents who came to repeat their views on alternative routes for the section of track between Prince George's Plaza and Greenbelt and the location of the proposed Adelphi Road Station.
But most of the gathering was more interested in learning when the rapid-rail link they have heard about for the last 12 years will arrive than in protesting its route. Signs lining the wall read, "PG Plaza Needs Metro" and "Support Pro-Metro."
"I think it will be an asset to the community," said Delmar Albertson of Avondale, one of many retired residents of the area, who made up about a quarter of the crowd. "My question is why it has taken so long. Virginia has almost got all of its lines. When they get finished do you think they will pay a penny for P.G.?"
The well organized forces of Neighborhoods Uniting left the meeting feeling confident that with strong community support, the backing of the state delegation from the 22nd District and a plan Metro could live with, they had a good chance at saving the Kirkwood apartments.
Roohr hopes to send a report summarizing the details of each route to the Metro Board by late January. The board will rule, with the advice of the Prince George's County Council, which will also consider the report, perhaps by late spring, he said.
"It may be a feasible alternative," said Roohr of the community-backed Alternate 1 plan. "You have to make these concessions -- the engineers aren't the last dot on the 'i' or cross on the 't.' I suspect that Alternate 1 has a good chance of floating."