"What's Burnt-Out, Stripped-Down and All Over New York?" {Jan. 5} described well the typical crisis most inner cities face regarding abandoned vehicles.

Last fall, the number of abandoned vehicles in one ward of my district totaled more than 2,000. Philadelphia has spent more than $100,000 since the beginning of 1987 to deal with this problem, and still thousands of vehicles remain.

While the unsightliness of these vehicles is obvious, this situation results in much greater problems. These autos are serious health and safety hazards. Automobiles contain many hazardous substances. Battery acids, transmission fluids and gasoline are extremely dangerous when not treated with care.

These vehicles also contribute to crime. In my district, I have found that many of the abandoned hulks are used to stash drugs and stolen objects.

The abandoned vehicle problem is a serious one in most major cities. It places an increased burden on those municipalities whose resources are already strained to the limit.

Last Oct. 13, I introduced a bill to provide emergency support to states and localities to fight this problem. My bill would provide $10 million in funds for matching grants to states and cities with abandoned vehicle programs. Among the criteria for allocation of funds are the implementation of a program to recycle these autos and a clear demonstration of the ability of the applicant to deal with the hazardous materials in these automobiles.

The other aspect of my legislation, just as important as these emergency funds, directs the Department of Transportation to undertake a full-scale study of the abandoned vehicle problem. Because the problem rests mainly with our underclass, it is very difficult to ascertain the severity of the situation. This study is vital to the development of the correct policy.

The abandoned vehicle problem may not be serious in the rural areas and suburbs of middle America, but it hits home at the areas that have been neglected most, our inner cities. These are the areas the federal government must help to revitalize if this country is going to prosper.

THOMAS M. FOGLIETTA

U.S. Representative (D-Pa.)

Washington