The Alexandria City Council voted last night to complain to the state that an elaborate traffic management system planned for Shirley Highway would exclude many Northern Virginia drivers from the highway and could overload the city's streets during rush hour.

The system, which is under construction, would employ traffic sensors and lighted signs to turn away drivers when the highway is filled to capacity.

Voting unanimously, the council approved a resolution asking the state not to use traffic metering devices along the highway during rush hour and to suspend use of such devices at the traffic-clogged Shirlington intersection altogether.

Councilman Carlyle C. Ring Jr. (R), said the $22.9 million traffic management system being constructed along the Shirley Highway and I-66 would unfairly discriminate against Northern Virginia drivers and would encourage commuters to take short cuts through residential neighborhoods.

"There's nothing... to suggest that this system will do anything more than exclude residents from inside the Beltway," Ring said, complaining specifically about Shirley Highway.

Thomas F. Farley, a state highway department engineer who has been coordinating the traffic management system, last night expressed disappointment at the council's decision. "From a technical standpoint, these systems are in place elsewhere and they do work," he said.

In approving the resolution last night, Alexandria became the first Northern Virginia jurisdiction to go on record opposing the traffic metering system. Officials in both Arlington and Fairfax had voiced fears earlier that the system would impose significant traffic delays on Northern Virginia commuters while giving priority to traffic originating outside the Beltway, but have taken no official action on the matter.

Under the resolution approved in Alexandria, council members authorized city staff to negotiate with the highway department over the disagreement. If no agreement can be reached, the resolution said, the council may pursue legal action. State Senator Wiley F. Mitchell, Jr. (R-Alex.) recently urged the council to consider filing a lawsuit against the state over the matter.

In other action last night, the council agreed on a list of state legislation it wants the city's delegation in the General Assembly to seek. The list includes measures that would give further protection to the city's historic buildings, strengthen controls on gun sales, require installation of smoke detectors in homes and mandate relocation assistance for tenants displaced by demolition or condominium conversion.

At a meeting of the council and the city's General Assembly delegation last week, State Sen. Wiley Mitchell (R) said he believed that the mood of the assembly would doom many of the proposals.