The topic of "Hell on Wheels in D.C." {editorial, Dec. 29} was a traditional one -- the poor condition of Washington's streets and the apparent inability of the D.C. Department of Public Works to repair them.

We are led to believe in reading the editorial that if people would only tell the Department of Public Works where the problems were, repair crews would go out and fix them. But if an organization does not know the community it is supposed to serve, it is probably an organization out of control -- one incapable of providing more than marginal assistance.

If the Department of Public Works does not know its streets, if it does not have priorities to reflect which streets deserve what degree of responsiveness and what level of maintenance, then the community should not expect anything more than ad hoc service. And notice, too, how the department is shifting the monkey off its back onto the back of the community with an apparent shrug of, "We don't know where the problems are; it's your fault for not telling us."

Service organizations have an obligation to get out there and figure out who needs service and in what way. There are lots of roads in the District, and the Department of Public Works seems not to be able to find its way.

THOMAS E. KERN

Arlington

Where has the writer of "Hell on Wheels" been driving? His harsh criticism of D.C. roads is unwarranted. Although some roads may have problems, one should not generalize as the writer has. The writer has unfairly criticized the District for its roads.

EVELYN M. WRIN

Washington