There is no doubt that with the failure of highways to cope with the traffic of our urban/suburban sprawl, many miles of light-rail lines will be needed in the Baltimore-Washington area in the near future. Unfortunately, our approach to light rail is piecemeal and fraught with political emotionalism. A case in point is the proposed Bethesda-to-Silver Spring transitway.

Light rail is the best use for this corridor, but a four-mile light-rail system cannot hope to be cost-effective. It would be successful, however, if part of a much longer cross-county line from Bethesda to New Carrollton. Such a line running through Silver Spring, Takoma Park, College Park, Riverdale and West Lanham Hills would serve a densely populated area with chronic east-west traffic congestion.

By interchanging with Metro at Bethesda, and with Metro and MARC at Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton this cross-county line would form a vital connecting link in a total transit network. It could later be extended to Bowie and Annapolis, and from Bethesda into Northern Virginia.

This light-rail line could be built with minimum impact on existing or planned development, residential neighborhoods or environmentally protected areas. County and state legislators from Montgomery and Prince George's counties should seriously consider this concept independent of any state-sponsored transportation studies. They should also endeavor to preserve the old B&O Railroad Georgetown corridor for future transit use. A much needed light-rail line could be operational by 1995, but only if our local politicians get together and define such a need.