The Capitol Hill Restoration Society wishes to present a different perspective on the "East Leg" freeway project from that of Christopher Herman and Janet Wintermute {"You Thought the 'East Leg' Was Dead?" Close to Home, Dec. 20}.

The Barney Circle project provides an opportunity to protect the nation's largest historic district, Capitol Hill, from the effects of commuter traffic, which clogs our streets during increasingly lengthy rush hours. Barney Circle is a federally funded project that will provide a long overdue "missing link" between two existing highways, the Anacostia Freeway and the Southwest/Southeast Freeway. Its key features are a new bridge across the Anacostia linking the two freeways and a new, two-lane landscaped parkway along the west bank of the river between the East Capitol Street Bridge and the Southwest/Southeast Freeway as it passes through Anacostia Park.

For more than a decade, the Capitol Hill neighborhood has been fighting to reverse decisions made in the 1950s that made our streets thoroughfares for commuters. It has been a long, hard struggle, but we have been making some progress: residential parking has been restored to many streets, including during rush hours; one-way streets have been returned to two-way service; and our streets are no longer cleared for events such as rock concerts and ball games at RFK Stadium.

But in our neighborhood, as in many across the city, traffic volumes are increasing, and rush hour starts earlier in the day and lasts longer in the evening. Traffic-related accidents occur with increasing frequency. Major projects are proposed that will affect our community. Projections include 10 million square feet of development in the Union Station area on our northeast border and 30,000 or more employees at the combined Navy Yard and Federal Southeast Center on our southwest border. Additional proposals include the development of Kingman Island as an amusement park, with 3.5 million visitors expected each year, and a new stadium with greater capacity and more traffic.

To cope with the increasing traffic volumes and the new development, we, like our neighbors in nearby suburban areas, need help.

The Barney Circle project is not a city-killing swath cut through the heart of a community; not one home or business will be bulldozed. The project will provide a very short link between two existing freeways that will open an alternate route to downtown. It also will provide an opportunity for the Department of Public Works to introduce badly needed traffic control measures to direct traffic around, not through, our neighborhoods.

As a result of extensive public discussion among various civic and neighborhood groups, agreements have been reached on a number of public improvements to be funded through the Barney Circle project, including establishment of bicycle lanes and trails, construction of pedestrian bridges, rebuilding of the seawalls along the river and development of boat ramps, fishing piers and recreational areas for field sports.

It is difficult to understand Herman's specter of interstate trucks thundering through our neighborhood. First, most interstate truck traffic is on the Beltway, as regular users of the Beltway can attest. As for local truck traffic, the Capitol Hill Traffic Management Task Force helped establish a truck route that severely limits truck access on local streets but recognizes trucks' need to serve local businesses. The traffic controls instituted with the opening of the Barney Circle project will serve to reinforce these restrictions. No truck traffic is proposed for the parkway through Anacostia Park.

Many of us who have worked on the Barney Circle project share the concerns of the opponents of the project about making democracy work and being absolutely sure that the promises made are kept. Exposure to the governmental process in this town can make one cynical. With Barney Circle, however, the Department of Public Works has gone out of its way to include the citizens who will be most affected in the planning, to hear our voices and to incorporate our concerns in the project. While we, too, cautiously await delivery of the package of traffic and park improvements that has been promised, we do not share in the alarmist cries of the antifreeway element. The Barney Circle project is a realistic response, developed with community input, to increased commuter traffic and the need for park improvements.

-- Patricia A. Schauer is vice president and environmental chairman of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, Inc.