Northern Virginia gasoline dealers said yesterday they are abandoning their fight against the region's month-old 2 percent gasoline sales tax because of the costs of pursuing the issue in the courts.

Ron Harrell, an official of the 400-member Northern Virginia Gasoline Retailers Association said that the group had decided to withdraw its lawsuit against the tax because "it just wasn't expedient to pursue the case due to the costs of a court fight."

On June 30, the day before the tax enacted by the Virginia General Assembly to pay for Metro operations took effect, the dealers filed suit in U.S. District Court in Richmond, seeking to block the levy.

The dealers requested an injunction barring the tax on grounds that it unconstitutionally applied to only one section of the state, but their initial request was rejected.

The 2 percent tax, which effects gasoline sales in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church and Fairfax City, took effect the same day as a statewide 2 cent per gallon tax levied statewide to help pay for road construction and maintenance. The combined taxes mean that Northern Virginians pay nearly 5 cents a gallon more for gasoline than residents of the rest of the state.

Also effective July 1 was a 6 percent gasoline tax approved by the D.C. City Council to raise money and help cover the city's enormous deficit.

Gasoline dealers in Virginia and the District complained that the increases in those jurisdictions meant that motorists would desert their stations and instead drive to suburban Maryland where gasoline should be 4-to-8 cents a gallon cheaper.