THE REGION

Metrorail Operators Get a Reminder

Metro has sent a bulletin to its train operators reminding them how to run trains manually as the investigation continues into last week's crash of a manually operated train at Woodley Park.

Metro trains are designed to be operated by computers, which automatically control their speed and braking. But under certain circumstances, such as icy track conditions, trains are run manually to give the operator greater control over speed and braking. Since mid-October, Metro operators also have been directed to run trains in manual mode during off peak-hours and on weekends as a way to keep up their proficiency.

Both trains involved in last week's crash were being operated manually. The National Transportation Safety Board is continuing to investigate the accident, in which an empty train rolled backward into the station and crashed into a train that had just picked up passengers.

Athletes Hear Pep Talk About Life

Hundreds of high school athletes from across the District, Maryland and Virginia gathered yesterday at FedEx Field, where Irving Fryar, a football player turned minister, offered advice about professional football and life.

Redskins running back Clinton Portis told the youths: "My struggle earlier in the season really wasn't from opposing defenses. I had to look at myself." Portis, tight end Robert Royal and offensive lineman Randy Thomas took part in the program, titled "4th and Life."

Fryar spoke of making mistakes, being arrested five times and turning his life around. "In life, you have to plan out your offense, just like you do on the field," he said.

VIRGINIA

Child Abducted by Mother, Police Say

Alexandria police said yesterday that a 2-year-old girl was abducted by her mother in an apparent custody dispute.

Ashley Montiel was taken Sunday by her mother, Mariela Montiel, 26, from the home of the girl's legal guardian in the 1400 block of North Beauregard Street, police said. When the mother did not return with the girl, the legal guardian called police the next morning. Police said they have no information about where Montiel, who also goes by the name Margarita Damian Cervantez, is living or working.

Detectives are concerned for the girl's welfare and are asking anyone with information to contact police at 703-838-4444.

THE DISTRICT

Bank Gives Money to Replace Stolen Toys

SunTrust Bank of Greater Washington yesterday donated $5,000 to the Salvation Army so it could replace hundreds of toys, intended for poor children during the holiday season, that were stolen over the weekend.

The toys, about $300 worth of food, two computers and a computer server were stolen from the organization's Northwest Washington warehouse. Salvation Army officials discovered the break-in Monday morning.

The toys, worth $2,000 to $3,000, had been purchased by the Salvation Army of Greater Washington to supplement the donations it receives in the "Angel Tree" program that began earlier this month. The program supplies toys, clothing and other items to about 7,000 children in the Washington area.

MARYLAND

Connector Plan Counts on U.S. Funds

Maryland transportation officials are trying to sell legislators on a financing plan for the intercounty connector that would earmark up to 20 percent of the state's share of federal highway dollars for debt service on the project for 15 years.

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan pitched the idea during separate appearances yesterday before a Senate committee and a House subcommittee. Lawmakers previously agreed to allow no more than 13 percent of federal highway dollars to be earmarked for debt payments on the project.

The proposed connector would link Interstate 270 in Montgomery County and Interstate 95 in Prince George's County with an 18- to 20-mile limited-access toll highway. Flanagan said the road is now projected to cost $1.8 billion to $2.1 billion, up from a projection last year of $1.7 billion. Public hearings are scheduled for January.

Some legislators voiced concerns that the new financing plan would leave too few dollars for other Maryland road projects.

Del. Peter Franchot (D-Montgomery) said he supports the connector but believes it would be wiser to help pay for it with a temporary increase in the gas tax.

Hornsby Says Year Ended With Surplus

Prince George's County schools chief Andre J. Hornsby appeared before the House Appropriations Committee in Annapolis yesterday to report that the system had a small surplus in its operating budget when the fiscal year ended in June.

Hornsby, appearing with Board of Education Chairman Beatrice P. Tignor (Upper Marlboro) and board member Robert O. Duncan (Laurel), said the system eliminated a $23.7 million deficit carried over from the previous budget year and ended with a $342,825 surplus.

Hornsby acknowledged some deficits in non-operating budget funds, including a $7.2 million shortfall in money used to pay for cafeteria food. The figures will not be final until outside auditors complete their annual audit of the fiscal 2004 budget, Hornsby said. The school system missed its Sept. 30 deadline for sending the audit results to the Maryland State Department of Education because it is using a new accounting firm, officials said.

Worker Loses Legs in Crane Accident

A construction worker in Anne Arundel County lost his legs Monday when a 300-ton crane tipped over at a job site in Maryland City, authorities said.

William Dobson, 52, of Suitland was injured when the crane fell on its side in the 7900 block of Orion Circle. Witnesses said his legs were severed when he was hit by the machine's heavy metal cables. He was hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said.

The crane operator had minor injuries in the accident, which is under investigation by the state.

"What was pretty clear is that this was a proposal that was not ready for prime time. It was not thought out."

-- D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) on the latest stadium financing proposal introduced by Chairman Linda W. Cropp. -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Hamil R. Harris, Jacqueline L. Salmon, John Wagner, Nancy Trejos, Lisa Rein and Elaine Rivera and the Associated Press.

Police seek Ashley Montiel.