Debate over the realignment of Calvert Road, a major east-west route in Riverdale that is scheduled to be closed for Metro construction, has escalated into an aggressive lobbying effort by leaders from several businesses and communities opposed to proposals drawn up by Prince George's County planners.
While that debate continues however, the future of the Green Line has been thrown in doubt by a federal Office of Management and Budget proposal to limit Metro construction. Metro has planned to open a station at College Park in 1992.
Calvert Road stretches west for 1.3 miles from Kenilworth Avenue to Rte. 1 and the University of Maryland campus, running past the College Park Airport and the site of the future College Park Metrorail station on the Green Line. The road is heavily used by residents of Riverdale, University Park, Hyattsville and College Park.
Community officials want Calvert to be replaced by a more southerly route through property owned by ACF Industries, a manufacturer of railroad cars. ACF and Litton Industries, Prince George's County's largest industrial employer, are backing that proposal. Their common interests in the issue have also made allies of university and College Park officials, who have long been uneasy neighbors.
Planners in the county Department of Public Works and Transportation argue that Prince George's would violate federal funding requirements in planning for the southern route because construction could threaten one historical site and take up six acres of preserved park land.
ACF, a Missouri-based firm purchased last year by corporate raider and financier Carl Icahn, has been the leader in the fight against the planners' decision to drop the southern route, which ACF needs to help make a planned 154-acre, high-tech industrial park viable.
The county has proposed two alternatives to the southern route. One calls for widening Calvert Road and tunneling it beneath the railroad tracks to Rte. 1. The other calls for improving the current road as far as 50th Street and then constructing a new road heading south that would intersect with Rte. 1 south of Albion Road.
The corporation is planning at least 1 1/2 million square feet of development, said Salvatore Mancini, director of construction and development for a New York firm hired by Icahn to help market the Riverdale site to other manufacturers.
ACF has retained prominent local lawyers and hired a former Riverdale town treasurer to court officials and citizen activists, stressing that new development brought on by the southern route will help the surrounding community.
It has also printed and distributed literature and formed a group called Citizens for a Better Prince George's County, the sole purpose of which is to promote the southern route.
Joining ACF and Litton Industries in this full frontal attack are the same veteran citizen activists who objected two years ago to the placement of the Metrorail's Green Line route and station in College Park -- on the grounds that the noise and disruption of construction was too big a price to pay. They eventually agreed to a compromise that moved the station site.
Community residents are opposed to the county's proposals in part because either road alignment would wipe out homes and businesses. Eleven residences and three businesses would be displaced under the first option proposed by the county, one business by the second. No businesses or homes would be displaced by the southern route.
Residents have also said they think the light industrial development would benefit their communities.
The new road will be paid for with $12.6 million in federal funds allotted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. County transportation planners argue that the route the residents favor would cost too much and impinge on park land and the Erco Complex, a former airplane plant that is eligible to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
William Boyce, the project manager for the Calvert Road relocation, said that the federal funding mandates that "the alternate with the least or no impact on park land or historical sites must be selected." Based on those guidelines, the southern route was dropped from consideration by the planners.
The University of Maryland would be a prime beneficiary of any new road that eases access to its campus. University Chancellor John Slaughter, stressing the need for the Green Line's extension in his remarks at a hearing last week on the road proposals, said he will favor the route that best serves his campus.
The best choice, he added, would be a route not now on anybody's list, one devised by university officials. It would be north of the current Calvert Road and would end at the north gate of the College Park campus.
Boyce said that the county will continue to accept written testimony on the relocation until Jan. 6. After that, the county's consultant, Wilson T. Ballard Jr., will have three weeks to respond to the objections raised at last week's hearing.
Public Works and Transportation Director James Novak will then recommend his choice to County Executive Parris Glendening, who will in turn forward that choice to the State Highway Administration. The final decision will be made by the Federal Highway Administration and is expected by late spring.