OF ALL THE WORTHY projects that have been studied nearly to death on Capitol Hill, the Pennsylvania Avenue redevelopment plan must be one of the longest suffering victims. Ever since the early days of John Kennedy's administration, Congress has been considering and debating how best to reverse the continuing deterioration of the nation's "ceremonial corridor" and to preserve its famous but decaying hotel of Presidents, the Willard. Today, the House is scheduled for a vote that could set this effort in honest-to-goodness motion at last -- or kill it once and for all. Approval is critical.

For one thing, the present version of the Pennsylvania Avenue plan is not extravagant -- and certainly not at all to be confused with the costly National Visitor Center project, to which it has been mistakenly likened by some members of Congress. As we have noted previously, the avenue measure has been stripped of any grandiose ambitions or waste. Last year, after a thorough congressional study of Financing. Congress authorized funds and borrowing authority for the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. to use in acquiring property and making some modest improvements in the area. This federal investment is essential to stimulate private development of necessary new offices, apartments, shops and restaurants. The vote now is on appropriating the money that Congress already authorized.

In its report approving this spending, from which an excerpt appears elsewhere on this page For the Record, the House Appropriations Committee emphasizes the thorough congressional scrutiny that the avenue plan already has undergone and concludes that the once-grand avenue ought to be rescued through this sensible and modest plan.

Above all, the Appropriations Committee points out that financing of the avenue redevelopment really cannot wait any longer without irreparable damage occurring to the Willard and other structures. That is why every member of the House who respects the historical importance of this project should support the appropriation.