ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 19 -- Opposition to Gov. William Donald Schaefer's plan to spend $290 million on a light rail system through Baltimore has gathered steam among some legislators from the Washington area and the rural part of the state who want financing for transportation projects in their home districts.

Those lawmakers, irked that Baltimore would benefit at the expense of their districts, may have found ways, at least for the moment, to delay both consideration of the light rail plan and completion of Baltimore's costly subway.

At their prompting, the state Board of Public Works decided today to postpone for at least a week action that had been scheduled for Wednesday on a $33 million subway contract. The contract would pay for final design work on the 1 1/2-mile line running east from downtown Baltimore to Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In addition, two legislative subcommittees have agreed to investigate whether light rail could replace the final stage of the subway.

Any hitch in the two transportation projects -- both high priorities with Schaefer -- is certain to irk the governor. His aides appeared surprised by the developments.

The delays also appeared to surprise Baltimore legislators, who said they resented the attempt of other lawmakers to impede projects for the city. "Somebody is crossing the parochial line down here," said Del. Larry Young (D-Baltimore), chairman of the city delegation.

State Treasurer Lucille Maurer and Comptroller Louis Goldstein, who along with Schaefer make up the public works board, said today they were concerned about the subway's cost -- totaling about $326 million -- and want to explore the possibility that it could be built more cheaply as a light rail project.

The subway leg, Maurer and Goldstein noted, would be more expensive than the entire proposed 27-mile light rail system, which would run from north of Towson through downtown Baltimore to Glen Burnie.

"It's a right expensive system for a mile and a half," Goldstein said.

"Now that the interest in light rail has been stimulated, there is naturally an interest and question {about} this very costly and complex mile and a half," Maurer said.

The expense of the project has annoyed Washington area legislators, who appear to be looking for ways to free money for the Washington suburbs and are eager for a rail link from Annapolis to the New Carrollton Metrorail station and from Silver Spring to Bethesda.

"Montgomery and Prince George's counties probably deserve a higher priority in allocation of transportation resources," said Del. Timothy Maloney (D-Prince George's), chairman of an appropriations subcommittee.

Officials of the state Department of Transportation have told legislators that they do not believe that the Baltimore streets along the proposed subway route could accommodate a light rail line, which would be like a modern trolley.

Ronald J. Hartman, administrator of the state's Mass Transit Authority, said that after working on the subway project for about five years, state and federal transportation officials believed that an above-ground system from Charles Street east to Johns Hopkins Hospital would not work. "We would love to put it in the street," Hartman said, "but it's gridlocked."

Also, they said that the subway funds -- primarily federal money -- cannot simply be transferred to a different kind of transit project.

State transportation officials are scheduled to discuss the issue with the public works board at its meeting next week.