On Oct. 6, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority -- Metro -- held a public hearing on alignment alternatives in southern Prince George's County. The hearing was the result of a court suit filed by "Citizens for the Branch Avenue Metro." It charged that WMATA had not given adequate notice of such a hearing. The federal court in Baltimore agreed and ordered WMATA to hold another hearing.

To my constituents, this was an important session because it was their only chance to be heard on this issue. A 1968 referendum on Metro bonding authority clearly showed that those of us who lived in the area served by the Branch Avenue alignment overwhelmingly supported the referendum. Citizens from Suitland, District Heights, Morningside, Auth Road and Camp Springs told the Metro board that they still supported the Branch Avenue alignment.

I understand the concerns of our Rosecroft neighbors -- there are good points on both sides of the issue. However, we believe that the Branch Avenue Metro is the preferred route for the county for several reasons: 1) it would serve existing population and employment centers, not projected numbers; 2) it does little damage to residential areas; and 3) although it is more expensive to build, it will be less costly to Metro and the county to operate.

Yet, according to a Metro staff report, Branch Avenue has no redeeming qualities, and Rosecroft has no problems!

The most important of these myths is the operating costs. The WMATA comparative alignment study never presents information on what the comparative total subsidy costs would be for Rosecroft vs. Branch Avenue, nor what either Prince George's County or the District of Columbia would have to pay upon the choice of alignment. A single undocumented estimate of operating costs is presented for each alignment.

Operation of the Rosecroft route is estimated in the comparative alignment study to cost $12.9 million a year, and operation of the Branch Avenue route $17.2 million a year in Prince George's County -- a difference of $4.3 millon. Since the Branch Avenue option extends farther, additional operating costs should be expected.

The 1977-1978 Metrorail alternatives analysis estimates that the Rosecroft option would be associated with 5.09 million more miles of bus service a year than the Branch Avenue option, at a likely additional deficit of $21 million; the Rosecroft option may cost about $19.3 million more a year to subsidize than the Branch Avenue option.

Not only are people from Suitland, District Heights and Morningside to be transported via Metrobus to Rosecroft (and of course be counted as Rosecroft riders) but an additional $19.3 million deficit can be anticipated.

The comparative alignment study estimates the cost of road improvements in the vicinity of Metrorail stations at $21.7 million for the Rosecroft alignment and $11.7 million for the Branch Avenue alignment. This in itself indicates that the county must come up with an additional $10 million in road improvements if Rosecroft is chosen rather than Branch Avenue.

Actually, however, Rosecroft is much more than $10 million costlier than Branch Avenue in access road improvements, because Rosecroft road improvements need to be made only if this alignment is chosen, while most of the Branch Avenue area road improvements need to be done anyway. In fact, many of the road improvements proposed for the Branch Avenue alignment area might be even more costly if Rosecroft is built, since Metro would not be there to relieve existing traffic problems.

Service to major employment centers is also ignored by the alternative analysis report. The Branch Avenue alignment would serve the federal center in Suitland, which employs 8,000 people. Although not all employees would travel on Metro, a large number would be riding to the federal center from the District and Virginia in the opposite direction of the peak-flow traffic. So it would cost virtually nothing to serve these employees.

The proposed employment centers along the Branch Avenue corridor would serve 10 times the number of jobs that Rosecroft would serve. The two-way ridership projected for the Branch Avenue line would produce at least $1.5 million more in farebox dollars -- helping to offset the WMATA deficit.

The impact of the Rosecroft alignment to residential communities is frightening. The proposed alignment is between two subdivisions; the Woods and Hillcrest Heights. Metro trains will travel approximately 200 feet from the subdivisions. The line is proposed to go underground on the St. Barnabas Church property, causing disruption to the parish and possible damage to this 150-year-old church. The parking area at the proposed St. Barnabas station will require the taking of many homes.

When all the factors are considered, the Branch Avenue alternative is clearly the favorable approach. Not only would this choice enjoy greater ridership and avoid disrupting neighborhoods, it would be less costly in both the short and long runs.