The traffic that goes around, comes around. At least that's what people who live near the community of Kenwood are arguing.

More than 200 people from Kenwood and the surrounding areas filled a tiny elementary school auditorium last week for an often-acrimonious public hearing during which Kenwood's neighbors complained about traffic barricades recently installed there.

The barriers, which restrict entrance to and exit from Kenwood, a neighborhood of 273 homes, were erected by Montgomery County transportation officials in June after Kenwood residents complained that the neighborhood was being excessively used as a shortcut for commuters traveling between busy River and Goldsboro roads and Little Falls Parkway.

Most of the people attending the hearing were opposed to the barriers and argued that the traffic Kenwood is restricting has been merely diverted into the surrounding neighborhoods. Speakers complained about the safety hazards caused by drivers who make U-turns on major roads when they realize that they cannot enter Kenwood and about the inconvenience involved in being forced to make detours from their normal traffic routes.

Regina Greenspan, president of the Mohican Hills Citizens Association, called the move by Kenwood "a slap in the face to all of us who live in the downcounty area. This is not the Middle Ages; we don't live in fortress towns."

The public hearing at Wood Acres Elementary School Jan. 28 was the first on residential barriers, said Robert S. McGarry, director of the Department of Transportation. Usually, he said, "we just decide to make the changes and then just do it."

He said the department held the hearing because the residents of Kenwood asked for the review. Nearly 70 people signed up to speak at the hearing -- more than could be fit in that night. The hearing is scheduled to continue at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11.

McGarry said it is county policy to allow barriers such as those installed in Kenwood if the neighborhoods meet certain requirements. Among those conditions are that the barriers must protect only secondary residential streets and must have the endorsement of the civic association and two-thirds of the neighborhood households. Also, the county requires that the adjacent arterial roadways be able to accommodate the diverted traffic and that the changes create "no impact on adjacent neighborhoods."

By county standards, Kenwood has satisfied these requirements. But neighbors argue that their streets are picking up the load.

"We ask that Kenwood stop setting itself off from other neighborhoods and share the burden of traffic equally," said Brenda Pascal of Springfield, echoing one of the most frequently voiced complaints of the evening. "We all pay taxes on those roads, and we should all be able to use them."

Some of the critics accused the residents of Kenwood, an area of upper-middle-class houses that is well known for its cherry trees, with trying to protect a standard of living for themselves at the expense of their neighbors.

Richard Stenson, the president of Glen-Mar Park Community Organization, called the installment of barricades "arrogant."

"The Kenwood subdivision is acting like the Kenwood club," he said.

Kenwood residents argued that their safety is being threatened by the traffic, especially because streets in the neighborhood do not have sidewalks.

According to Patricia Johnson, 300 children live in Kenwood, half of whom are under age 15, and they are at risk when they play in the streets.

Although the transportation department did not publicize the hearing, Brenda Pascal said she spread the word by making "hundreds" of calls to "anyone I could think of -- laundries that have home delivery, fire and rescue departments and county officials."

Pascal said, "We not only want to stop the barriers in Kenwood, we want to have the laws changed throughout the county."

Several other communities in Montgomery County, such as Edgemoor and Rollingwood, have implemented traffic restrictions ranging from road closings to one-way streets. Rockville, which maintains its own roads, has the authority to close off streets without county approval.

Not all of the Kenwood residents approve of the barriers. Virginia Simpson said she believed that the new traffic patterns being created by the detours were "dangerous."

"Now we have to drive past 38 homes in {Springfield}," she said. "I don't think it is morally right to close our streets and make traffic go through someone else's neighborhood." attitude that "only causes the traffic to spread elsewhere."END NOTES

Although it was not emphasized during the hearing, several people later questioned whether the rift was affecting the area's sense of community.

William H. Sardo Jr. of Springfield said, "I'm not against restrictions at certain hours. But the barricades turn neighbor against neighbor."