Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening will announce plans today to extend Metrorail service beyond the Capital Beltway for the first time in Prince George's County with an extension of the Blue Line to Largo, bringing transit service within a mile of FedEx Field.

The governor is committing $175 million toward the $434 million project, and with that, transit officials expect the Federal Transit Administration soon will give final approval to the plan.

The three-mile extension would include two stations, at Largo Town Center and Summerfield, and could be open in 2004. The federal government would pay the balance of the cost.

"This extension of Metro will ease traffic congestion, enhance economic development and give us a major step toward our goal of doubling mass transit ridership," said Glendening (D).

It is also a significant milestone for Metro because the project would mark the first extension of the rail system beyond its original 103-mile plan. The original system is expected to be completed next year with the opening of the last five stations on the Green Line, from Congress Heights to Branch Avenue in Prince George's County.

The Blue Line now ends at Addison Road. By extending it beyond the Beltway, transportation planners hope road congestion would ease as motorists switch to trains. A Metro spokesman said 20,000 passengers a day would be added to the system. The parking lot at Summerfield would hold 500 cars, and there would be spaces for 2,200 cars at Largo.

The extension also would make it easier for state and local officials to persuade Redskins fans to travel to FedEx Field by mass transit instead of automobile. Traffic around the stadium is often heavy, and fans have complained about a shortage of nearby parking.

The Largo Town Center station would be slightly less than a mile from FedEx Field, providing the closest transit link to the stadium. Passengers could either walk from the Largo station or ride a shuttle bus to the stadium.

Currently, football fans must ride 20 minutes on buses from Metro's Addison Road, New Carrollton or Cheverly stations to FedEx Field--a trip many fans say deters them from using Metro.

"We're bringing the rail that much closer to the field," Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said.

The extension of the Blue Line has been one of the top priorities for Metro in Maryland and is possible this year, in part, because of the $925 million state budget surplus. Glendening has committed a portion of the money to transportation needs, including funding part the state's share of the cost of replacing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and other projects he will announce today when he details his transportation budget in Annapolis.

Officials hope the new stations in Prince George's County would boost development in the area.

"Extending the Blue Line to Largo will make public transportation much more accessible to our citizens and enable us to proceed with the long-planned upscale, mixed-use development that the area deserves," Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) said in a statement.

Staff writer Lyndsey Layton contributed to this report.

CAPTION: Gov. Parris N. Glendening