Montgomery County officials have proposed improving the appearance of the rapidly growing downtowns of Bethesda, Silver Spring and Wheaton by creating urban-maintenance districts to provide higher levels of public services.

The districts would be concentrated primarily in areas where the county operates public parking lots, and some districts would be expanded to include outlying businesses, said Robert S. McGarry, director of the county's Department of Transportation, which is heading the project.

The program would be funded by increasing parking-meter fees and levying an urban-district tax in each area, McGarry said. Funds would be expended in the district in which they were generated, he added.

Services would consist of litter pick-up, sidewalk vacuuming, street sweeping, street flushing, trash receptacle pick-up and brick-sidewalk cleaning, McGarry said. Most of the work would be done by contractors.

The estimated costs for providing the increased services in the three districts range from $1 million to $1.5 million, depending on the frequency of service, Department of Transportation figures show. Currently, about $467,000 is used to maintain streetscapes in those areas.

The plan is expected to be approved by the County Council this fall and would take effect at the beginning of the 1987 fiscal year next July, McGarry said.

The proposed district for Bethesda is bounded roughly by Battery Lane to the north, Bradley Boulevard to the south, Arlington Road to the east and Wisconsin Avenue to the west.

The Silver Spring district would be bounded largely by Spring Street to the north, Jessup Blair Drive to the south, Fenton Street to the east and Eastern Avenue to the west.

The Wheaton district would comprise the area bounded by Blueridge Avenue to the north, Prichard Road to the south, Veirs Mill Road to the east and Amherst Avenue to the west.

Bethesda and Silver Spring are long-established suburban jurisdictions that have experienced rapid, urbanlike redevelopment in past years, owing largely to their proximity to the District and the opening of Metrorail stations.

County officials envision similar growth in downtown Wheaton, and they already have planned small-scale renovation designed to upgrade the appearances of the commercial center.

McGarry described the current levels of services in the three districts as "marginal" and said "there was no question we were going to have to do more in these areas. The redevelopment pushed it on."

Chamber of Commerce representatives in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Wheaton have yet to take a position on the plan. But they generally agree that service levels in their districts should be increased, chamber members said.

"At this point, reaction is still mixed," said Robert Kelly, vice president of community and economic development for the 400-member Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.

"We're still studying it," Kelly continued. "It has a lot of ramifications. We have to make sure it's going to work for the betterment of the community."