MARYLAND

ACLU Drops Ten Commandments Suit The American Civil Liberties Union has withdrawn a lawsuit against the City of Frederick, after city officials agreed to sell a small strip of public property containing a monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

The ACLU lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore this summer, alleged that the four-foot stone marker in Frederick's Memorial Park violated the constitutional prohibition of state-sponsored religion.

Frederick's Board of Aldermen voted Nov. 20 to sell a 10-by-50-feet section of the five-acre park. The sliver of land contains the monument, donated to the city in 1958 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, an international service group.

ACLU officials had said that if the property became privately owned, they would drop the lawsuit; on Monday, they notified the city that they had done so.

The city is selling the piece of land for $6,700 and has received several offers, but no sale has been made, said Frederick spokeswoman Nancy Poss. Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty hopes to sell the land by the end of the year, Poss said.

Refurbished Lexington Market Opens Baltimore's historic Lexington Market reopened yesterday after more than $4 million in renovations.

Founded in 1782 and rebuilt after a six-alarm fire in 1949, the market touts itself as "the world's longest continuously operating market."

Gen. John Eager Howard, a hero of the American Revolution, donated the land for the market on his return from the war. More than 200 years later, the market maintains an earthy atmosphere and communal spirit, but now with a fresh look.

Its general manager, Casper Genco, said the market's face-lift is one of the first visible signs of a revitalization of Baltimore's west side.

THE DISTRICT

Outage Forces Students From School Students at Clark Elementary were temporarily relocated yesterday as a result of a loss of power at the Northwest Washington school.

Classes were held at St. Gabriel Catholic Church, two blocks away, while Pepco repaired a malfunctioning transformer outside the school, officials said. A D.C. school official said last night that the repair had been completed.

VIRGINIA

Group Backs Higher Gas Tax for Transit A month after urging defeat of a sales tax increase for transportation projects, a slow-growth group in Fairfax County is urging Northern Virginia to raise its tax on gasoline.

The region's drivers are taxed 19.5 cents on a gallon of gasoline; 17.5 cents goes to the state and 2 cents to local mass transit projects. The Fairfax Coalition for Smart Growth, in a statement issued yesterday, said the tax should be raised 4 cents, with all of the added amount going to local projects. Each cent would yield about $13.5 million a year, which could be used to float millions of dollars in bonds, the group said.

The Virginia General Assembly would have to authorize local governments to increase the tax. Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) has said he does not want to raise taxes this year.

Bob Chase, president of an alliance of 1,000 Northern Virginia businesses working to ease traffic congestion, said his group does not oppose higher gas taxes. But he said a 4-cent increase would not raise enough money. Today's fuel-efficient cars mean that the tax would have to jump by as much as 11 cents to raise significant revenue, Chase said.

Alexandria Crime Database Goes Online Starting yesterday, anyone visiting the Alexandria Police Department Web site can tap into a database of reported crimes and incidents that occurred anywhere in the city dating to January.

Visitors to the site, www.ci.alexandria.va.us/police, can search for crimes citywide or narrow it to a street or a single block, police said. They can choose among 33 classifications, including burglary, robbery and sex offenses, and will be able to glean where and when they happened and the status of the cases.

To search the database, click on the "on-line crime data search" at the Web site, police said.

"This new tool is a great combination of people and technology," Police Chief Charles E. Samarra said. "Alexandrians now have critical information at their fingertips."

Tidewater Museum of Flight to Open The Smithsonian Institution's annex to the National Air and Space Museum near Dulles International Airport is not the only aviation center scheduled to open in Virginia next year. The Virginia Air & Space Center's $6.9 million aviation gallery is on its way to becoming reality in Hampton Roads, officials said, despite the collapse of the Aviation World's Fair 2003 and state budget cuts in cultural funding.

If all goes as planned, center officials said, visitors will step inside a two-story, 15,000-square-foot space next summer and see a full-scale reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the plane used by the Wright Brothers in their historic first flight.

The "Adventures in Flight" gallery will explore the origin of flight and the historic contributions the Hampton Roads area has made to commercial and military aviation. Museum officials said they have had to depend on money from non-state sources because of the state budget crunch.

Conservation to Start on Ironclad's Guns Archaeologists and conservators in Newport News have finished removing sediment from the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor's gun turret, which was raised from the Atlantic bottom this summer.

A team at the Mariners' Museum now will begin a 12- to 15-year conservation process, concentrating first on separating the Union ship's two cannons from their carriages so they can be removed from the turret next year, museum officials said yesterday.

"This is going to be a very busy winter for the conservation team at the museum," said Curtiss Peterson, the museum's chief conservator.

The Monitor and the Confederate ship CSS Virginia, formerly named the Merrimack, revolutionized naval warfare and architecture when they fought to a draw in the first battle of ironclads on March 9, 1862, in the Hampton Roads harbor near Newport News.

The Monitor sank, upside down, in a storm on Dec. 13, 1862, 16 miles off Hatteras, N.C. Sixteen sailors died.

A joint Navy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration team used a huge crane to raise the 120-ton revolving turret on Aug. 5, ending a five-year effort to save major artifacts from the deteriorating wreckage.

"It's better to be overprepared. We've had it pretty easy for the past several years."

-- Joan Morris, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, on the armies of snowplows and crews deployed last night. -- Page B4

Compiled by staff writers David Snyder, Justin Blum, Lisa Rein and Patricia Davis and the Associated Press.