No More Superhighways

Regarding a recent article you featured about an expanded Route 301:

I am opposed to another superhighway or another outer-beltway-type structure along Route 301, since this will only contribute to the problem of sprawl--the number one land-use problem in the United States today.

Granted, there is congestion on Route 301, but a modern superhighway will solve nothing. It will only ensure that said superstructure will become outmoded in a few years. This is because a bigger highway will only attract more development, which in turn will attract more traffic.

In other words, we have a vicious cycle here.

Where will it end? When there is no more open, natural space over which to pour concrete and asphalt?

In addition, a traffic-signal-free, outer-beltway-type corridor, as planned for this portion of Route 301, will ensure that a great percentage of the traffic moving through this area will be commercial, out-of-state vehicles. Moreover, this superhighway will make it less costly for neighboring states to ship their rubble and dangerous waste to dumps in the southern part of our state (especially in Prince George's and Charles counties).

Today, trucking companies that handle rubble and hazardous waste are a big business--a special interest group. Briefly, I believe the federal and state transportation bureaucracies are helping this (and other) special interest groups at the expense of the best interest of the local populations.

Can't you do more investigation into the issue of an expanded Route 301, approaching the issue more comprehensively or allowing others to give a different side of the story? (There are other metropolitan areas in the United States that have the same problems but are being innovative in their approach.)

Jonathan Duley

Upper Marlboro

Fire Department Takes Issue

The Jan. 5 edition of the Prince George's Extra carried the article "County's Crime Rate Is Steadily Declining." At the end of that article were two paragraphs relating to the operation of the Prince George's County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department.

Several of the concepts that were portrayed by the author are out of date and form a grossly inaccurate portrait of the current mission of the department.

A clear concept of who and what our organization is can be found in our current Mission and Vision Statements. Our mission is to be an organization that effectively and reliably provides for the safety of our community. This is accomplished by being responsive to the needs of our citizens, providing professional care, operating in a responsible, cost-effective manner and ensuring a safe, healthy and supportive work environment for all of our members.

This direction was established through the creation of our current Strategic Plan, of which a copy is enclosed.

The author of the article, Craig Whitlock, described this system as an "odd blend of paid career firefighters and volunteer companies." Looking across the Washington region, you will find that a majority of the fire and EMS agencies within our local governments operate a combination career and volunteer system, making it not "odd" but the "norm."

Due to the cost savings of using volunteer staffing, as well as the American tradition of volunteerism, combination fire departments are successfully utilized throughout the United States. In fact, the combination model has proved itself to be more popular than any other mode of departmental staffing in the nation.

Prince George's Fire/EMS is one of the largest combination departments in the nation. We are widely recognized and respected for our innovative programs and an outstanding approach to combination system management. Our organization is made up of nearly 50 community-based stations, staffed by over 1,200 active volunteers and a career force of 747. Our volunteer and career forces share an overall vision to secure the safety and well being of the citizens of our county, as well as those who visit our communities and travel our roads and streets.

The fact that volunteer organizations in our region must compete for an ever dwindling pool of much-needed funding is not new. From the beginning of the volunteer fire service, there have always been fund-raising efforts to build and maintain fire stations, purchase or rehabilitate fire and rescue apparatus, and provide programs to attract and retain volunteer members.

During the time that a number of our volunteer fire companies operated charitable gaming, funding seemed plentiful. With the conclusion of these fund-raising opportunities, a number of volunteer companies were forced to deal with financial commitments that were made on the assumption that charitable gaming funding would continue uninterrupted.

In his article, Mr. Whitlock created the impression that these problems have exacerbated tensions within our organization. Quite the contrary. The county Fire/EMS Department has worked with our volunteer fire companies to provide advice and assistance. Cooperation and vision were the main ingredients in finding financial solutions to these challenges. As a result, relationships have improved as career and volunteer management worked together to resolve these matters.

The Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department is proud of our record of maintaining our vision in providing for the safety of our citizens. As leaders of this outstanding service organization, allowing such a broad misstatement to remain unchallenged would be a disservice to the volunteer and career forces that staff our community-based emergency response stations.

Perhaps space in your paper could better serve the citizens of our community by encouraging Mr. Whitlock to write an article promoting additional volunteer participation and charitable funding to augment the men and women who currently work hard to protect our communities.

Joseph R. Robinson

Largo

Ronald J. Siarnicki

Fire Chief, Prince George's County Fire/EMS

Upper Marlboro

The Prince George's Extra welcomes Letters to the Editor. E-mail to pgextra@washpost.com; fax to 301-952-1397; write to Letters to the Editor, Prince George's Extra, The Washington Post, 14402 Old Mill Rd., Suite 201, Upper Marlboro, Md. 20772. Please include your place of residence and a daytime phone number. Letters may be edited.