A Jan. 29 article about a recommendation to reject Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's proposal for a heavy-rail Metro line incorrectly described the source of the recommendation. It came from the staff of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which provides technical assistance to planning boards in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The staff's findings will be the focus of a 9 a.m. hearing today at 8787 Georgia Ave. before the Montgomery County Planning Board. The article also incorrectly identified the hiker-biker trail that would be affected by a proposed trolley line. It is the Georgetown Branch Trail. (Published 1/30/03)

A planning agency in Maryland has recommended against Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's proposal to run a heavy-rail subway line mostly north of the Capital Beltway to create a Metro link across Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which provides technical assistance to planning boards in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, found that Duncan's version of the proposed Purple Line would cost too much, create environmental problems and require years of further analysis.

The commission said the requirements of the Duncan plan would make it impossible for Maryland to meet a spring deadline for federal funding applications.

The Democratic county executive wants to build a heavy-rail, or subway line, outside the Beltway that would serve communities including White Oak, Wheaton and Grosvenor before dipping south of the Beltway and connecting the Silver Spring station with the Medical Center station on the Red Line. Duncan's alignment avoids Columbia Country Club and the Capital Crescent Trail in Chevy Chase.

In a report released yesterday, the commission recommended that public officials reject Duncan's plan and instead move forward with a competing proposal supported by the county councils in Montgomery and Prince George's.

The competing plan, known as the inner Purple Line, calls for a light-rail line to be built at ground level between New Carrollton and Bethesda. Its most controversial leg, between Silver Spring and Bethesda, would cut through Columbia Country Club and run parallel to the Capital Crescent Trail, a wooded trail popular with hikers, cyclists and in-line skaters.

The commission found that Duncan's proposal would attract more new riders, provide a faster ride between Silver Spring and Bethesda and improve the flexibility of the rest of the Metro system.

But the commission also said that Duncan's segment between Silver Spring and Bethesda would cost about twice as much as the equivalent portion of the inner Purple Line -- $750 million vs. $370 million. And it would require at least two years of environmental studies -- time the state does not have.

Maryland must decide within a month which transit proposal it will send to Capitol Hill as Congress reauthorizes the nation's transportation spending plan. If a request for funds for the Purple Line is not made by early March, it will be six years before the state gets another opportunity to seek federal money.

Duncan said yesterday that the planning commission inflated the cost of his Purple Line proposal and discounted the price of the trolley. He said he was standing by his plan because heavy rail could be extended beyond Bethesda and over the river to Tysons Corner.

The planning commission will present its findings tomorrow at a public hearing before the Montgomery County Planning Board.

The trolley has won support from business leaders, environmentalists, organized labor and civic groups -- a diverse coalition that yesterday kicked off a month-long campaign to win backing from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).

It is opposed by officials of Columbia Country Club, which sits on the right of way and would be forced to relocate two holes if the trolley is built. It also is opposed by community associations in Chevy Chase and some outdoor enthusiasts who use the Capital Crescent Trail.

Ehrlich will decide which proposal Maryland goes with -- a trolley inside the Beltway or a heavy-rail line that runs mostly outside the Beltway. "If he doesn't put it on the list, it does not go forward," Duncan said.

Shortly after his election, Ehrlich said he was opposed to the trolley inside the Beltway. But trolley proponents are hoping to sway him to their side and have hired a well-connected Republican lobbyist, David L. Winstead, to make their case in the next month.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan wants a heavy-rail line north of the Capital Beltway.