THE REGION

Group Offers Free Rides to Revelers

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program, a nonprofit group, is offering free taxicab rides tomorrow night to keep drunk drivers off the road on Halloween.

The program -- known as SoberRide and available throughout the metropolitan area -- will run from 8 p.m. tomorrow until 4 a.m. Friday. Area residents 21 and older who celebrated Halloween with alcohol can call 1-800-200-TAXI to get free trips home, worth up to a $50 fare. AT&T wireless users can call # - TAXI.

Harpers Ferry Battlefield Preservation The preservation of a large piece of the unprotected battlefield at Harpers Ferry outside the boundaries of the national park is scheduled to be announced this afternoon by the Civil War Preservation Trust according to a trust spokesman.

Spokesman Jim Campi said the trust is assisting in the purchase of the $1.7 million, 232-acre tract known as School House Ridge, a part of the Harpers Ferry battlefield where Confederate forces captured more then 12,000 Union forces during the Battle of Harpers Ferry on Sept. 15, 1862. It comes one day after the announcement of the preservation of another section of the same battlefield, an area known as Murphy's Farm.

MARYLAND

Panel Approves Pr. George's School Plan

A five-year blueprint for improving Prince George's County public schools was unanimously approved yesterday by the State Board of Education.

The plan calls for smaller class sizes in grades 2 and 3, expansion of a mandatory summer school program for low-performing students in grades 2 and 6, better monitoring of trends in suspensions and expulsions, and steps to return students to their neighborhood schools.

Prince George's was one of the first school systems to submit a master plan to the state, a requirement of a $1.3 billion aid package for Maryland schools. The Commission on Education, Finance, Equity and Excellence -- better known as the Thornton Commission -- recommended the windfall earlier this year, but said school systems must report back on how they planned to spend it.

The Prince George's master plan took on urgency in the spring when the General Assembly passed a bill that set a Sept. 15 deadline for submission. Nineteen of the county's schools are on a watch list for possible state takeover.

Montgomery May Reopen Another School Montgomery County Superintendent Jerry D. Weast wants to reopen Arcola Elementary School in Silver Spring in 2006 to ease crowding problems at nearby Highland and Kemp Mill elementary schools.

But the move threatens to uproot 371 students in kindergarten through 12th grade at Washington Christian Academy, which has made the Arcola site its home for 20 years.

The academy's headmaster, Larry Danner, said he knew his school faced the prospect of moving one day, but the timing of Weast's proposal surprised him. "We were disappointed," he said in a statement. "It would have been helpful to get official notice of this decision."

If approved by the school board, Weast's plan -- made public yesterday -- would add Arcola to a list of county schools scheduled to reopen within the next six years in response to rapid enrollment growth.

Planned Arundel Office Park Advances

Anne Arundel County government, the Navy and a private firm signed a $250 million deal yesterday to transform a shuttered naval research center near Annapolis into a high-tech office park.

The David Taylor Research Center, site of cutting-edge developments in naval technology before it closed in 1995, was formally transferred from the Navy to the county to a development group called Annapolis Partners -- all in one day. It was the result of a complex agreement negotiated over seven years.

The deal was seen as a significant political victory for Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens (D), who had been working to see it completed since taking office in 1998. "I think this is going to provide extraordinary economic benefits to the county," she said.

Work on the redevelopment project could take 12 years to complete.

Workers Knock Out Bowie Phones

About 12,000 Bowie residents lost phone service yesterday morning after contractors burying fiber-optic lines close to a railroad bridge, near Routes 50 and 197, cut five phone cables.

"Some have no dial tone. Some have noise and static on the line," Verizon spokeswoman Sandra Arnette said. "We don't think the cables were serverly damaged."

Seven hours after the outage, Verizon employees were still digging a hole to assess the damage. Rising water after a day of rain delayed them.

The service outage knocked out 11,700 residential and business lines -- including phones at the nearby Bowie Volunteer Fire Department, Arnette said. The emergency medical system was not affected.

"If regular phone service is temporarily disrupted, it's an inconvenience, but it doesn't really stop us from doing anything; it just means our guys can't make a local call," said Prince George's fire department spokesman Chauncey Bowers.

VIRGINIA

Motorcycle Rider Killed in Crash

A 48-year-old Alexandria man was killed Saturday when his motorcycle collided with a car on Richmond Highway in the Huntington area, Fairfax County police said yesterday.

Graige Godmere, of the 2600 block of Arlington Drive, was riding a 2001 Suzuki motorcycle north on Richmond Highway when the accident occurred about 8 a.m., police said. Police said Godmere's motorcycle struck a 1984 Oldsmobile Delta that had been northbound on Richmond Highway and crossed into the motorcycle's path as the driver attempted to turn left onto East Lee Avenue.

Godmere was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he died, police said. The driver of the Oldsmobile, Colleen Woznak, 70, of Alexandria, was not injured.

Police said an investigation is continuing.

"I believe the ultimate sanction ought to be available here. It's important we have available the most serious penalties."

-- Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, speaking

after the federal government filed capital murder charges

against sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Linda Wheeler, Theola Labbe{acute}, Ylan Q. Mui, Nelson Hernandez, Krissah Williams and Maria Glod.