Over the next several weeks, Bell Atlantic Corp. will make several additional software changes to the computers in Baltimore and Washington that run the local phone networks, part of a plan aimed at preventing a repeat performance of last Wednesday, a Bell Atlantic engineer said yesterday.

Don Burns, Bell Atlantic's assistant vice president for engineering support, said those changes will help improve load balances in the master computers in Baltimore and Washington and "further limit the kind of congestion we saw Wednesday."

On Wednesday, up to 5 million people in Maryland, Washington, Virginia and parts of West Virginia were left without access to local phone service. Engineers now believe a faulty circuit board overloaded a main computer in Baltimore with "maintenance messages" -- messages computers send themselves to confirm that their components are working properly -- causing it to shut down.

The congestion spilled over to three other master computers and the hundreds of electronic switches they control, resulting in the worst outage in memory at C&P.;

Bell Atlantic has already installed software changes to limit the number of maintenance messages. Mr. Burns said a number of other changes will be made.

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