Travelers Pack National's Parking Lots

Parking lots at Reagan National Airport filled to capacity yesterday as what is expected to be a heavy summer travel season began in earnest, officials said.

Airport officials said fliers should take Metro or a taxi to the airport and if they must drive should call 703-417-PARK before going to National.

"We are filled up," said spokeswoman Tara Hamilton. "As we find a space here and there, we squeeze people in. We really want people to just get in the habit and call before they come to the airport."

Hamilton said parking is expected to be tight all summer, especially midweek when business travelers fill the close-in lots and vacationers fill the economy ones.

Volunteers Watch for Panda Pregnancy

More than 40 volunteers have begun a pregnancy watch for the National Zoo's female giant panda, Mei Xiang. If the panda is pregnant, the zoo's scientists say a cub will be born between now and late July.

This is the third year the zoo has tried to breed its giant pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. In 2003 and 2004, the female had pseudopregnancies, which are common in giant pandas. The female was artificially inseminated with semen from the male March 11.

The volunteer panda watchers, recruited by Friends of the National Zoo and trained by zoo staff, have observed Mei Xiang spending more time in her den and exhibiting nest-building behavior, FONZ said in a statement. The volunteers use 23 cameras to monitor Mei Xiang and record maternal behaviors to help the zoo track a possible pregnancy and predict the birth of a cub. Volunteers are watching the panda about eight hours a day, seven days a week; on Monday, the pregnancy watch is scheduled to go 24 hours a day.

Crab Count Still Down in Chesapeake

For the eighth year in a row, the number of mature blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay is below the historic average, according to a new report.

The report was issued by the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee, comprising scientists from universities, the federal government and Virginia and Maryland. It draws upon four surveys that count crabs by dredging them off the bay bottom and catching them in pots.

Among the report's findings: The number of mature female crabs decreased slightly in 2004 and remains below the average for the past few decades. The number of juvenile crabs returning to the bay increased moderately, rising above its long-term average for the first time since 1999.

The report said there was still cause for concern about blue crabs, whose overall numbers have fallen since the early 1990s. It said recent moves to protect the crabs, including a blue crab sanctuary in Virginia waters and a minimum size for crabs caught by watermen, should remain in place.


New York Avenue Study Up for Review

The District Department of Transportation has scheduled a public meeting to discuss the draft of the New York Avenue Corridor Study on Saturday. The meeting is set to run from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the second-floor community room of the Frank Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW.

The plan for the corridor is available for review at the Martin Luther King Jr. Public Library. The draft has been published after two years of study and public meetings, and many key recommendations have been presented and discussed.

A new section discusses potential land acquisitions, financing and environmental impacts. The Saturday meeting is open for discussion on all topics covered in the study.


Gavel Passes at Md. Board of Regents

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents thanked outgoing chairman Clifford M. Kendall yesterday for leading it through a difficult period that included drastic cuts in state funding and a new emphasis on efficiency. Chancellor William E. Kirwan said those efforts will save the system some $20 million this year.

The board elected David H. Nevins to suceed Kendall, who will remain on the board. The board approved a $172 million capital budget request to the state for the 2007 fiscal year, a list of building priorities that includes $45 million for a teacher education and technology center at Salisbury University and $40 million for a college of liberal arts complex at Towson University.

The board also approved several new programs, including a school of aging studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, which would launch with a $5 million donation from John Erickson, founder and chief executive of Erickson Retirement Communities.

The meeting was the final one for regents Adela Acosta and Joseph D. Tydings and student regent Jeremy Horine.

Judge Denies Aisenbergs Case File

A judge in Tampa has ruled that the parents of a baby girl who vanished in 1997 can't review a file detailing the investigation into her disappearance because the case is still active.

Steven and Marlene Aisenberg -- who now live in Maryland -- had asked for the file as part of their lawsuit against the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and several deputies.

Circuit Judge William Levens ruled yesterday that any material related to the case must be protected. Barry Cohen, the Aisenbergs' attorney, said they will challenge the ruling.

An attorney for the sheriff's office said the file includes leads investigators have received, lab results and interviews.

Five-month-old Sabrina Aisenberg vanished from her crib in 1997. She has not been found.

Her parents have accused prosecutors and investigators of violating their civil rights by fabricating evidence in a criminal case. VIRGINIA

Cuts Threaten Charlottesville Train Service

Charlottesville's two daily Amtrak trains could be cut under federal legislation that would prohibit federal funding for any Amtrak route that requires a subsidy of $30 or more per passenger. The measure would affect at least 15 long-distance routes and two regional lines, including trains that stop in Charlottesville.

U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) offered an unsuccessful amendment to keep funding for Amtrak.

"The biggest reason people say they can't walk around Tysons Corner is that they can't cross the main roads. It's very intimidating out there."

-- Wade Smith, a board member of the McLean Citizens Association,

talking about the lack of pedestrian crossings in the Tysons area. -- A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Susan Kinzie, David A. Fahrenthold, Karlyn Barker and Steven Ginsberg and the Associated Press.