The longest line in town yesterday was probably the one that stretched out the door at the State Department's passport office in the One McPherson Square Building at 1425 K St. NW.

And who were those people standing in line? Bargain hunters, no less.

As reported previously, yesterday--the last business day of the year for most of the government--was the deadline for filing applications directly with the State Department for new or renewed passports at low rates. With the start of the new year, the cost of a new passport for adults will rise from $10 to $42 and the cost of renewals will rise from $10 to $35.

However, adult passports will be valid for 10 rather than five years.

It still will be possible for some people to beat the price increase, provided they have all the necessary documents and passport photos. Major post offices, but not all branches, will accept applications today. Check with your local post office to find out which ones.

Among those in line in the K Street office yesterday was Carolyn Stotler, who came from Annapolis with her daughter, Amy, 12, to apply for passports so the four-member family can visit Stotler's sister in Naples next summer.

"I'm here because I figure I'm beating the price" by $50 to $75, she said, adding: "I made my first trip on the Metro [from New Carrollton] and I'm a nervous wreck."