A caption in last week's Virginia Weekly incorrectly identified a man standing next to Gov. Gerald L. Baliles. He was Robert E. LaRose, president of Advanced Technology Inc. and president of the Fairfax County Public Schools Education Foundation.
Gov. Gerald L. Baliles used nearly every mode of transportation available during his four-day stay in Northern Virginia last week, but he missed the one experience most of the 300 persons who wrote to The Weekly urged: sitting behind the wheel of a car in rush-hour traffic.
The closest the chief executive came to sampling the daily frustration of hundreds of thousands of commuters was when his limousine had to wait about 20 minutes to get out of the service road that connects the new Sheraton hotel at Tysons Corner with Leesburg Pike (Va. Rte. 7).
"You don't have to deliberately seek out a traffic jam in Northern Virginia," said press secretary Chris Bridge, who added that her boss' trooper-driven Cadillac "came to a halt" several times while racing from one engagement to another.
Baliles' state trooper chauffeurs said the governor was delayed twice in the District in the midday rush hour, an experience not yet available in most places in the Virginia suburbs, and on I-66 Saturday morning, en route to the Metro dedication.
Most of the time, Baliles, who repeatedly pledged to "take my turn in traffic," traveled in a style fitting a governor, beginning with the trip from Richmond on a luxurious four-car private railroad train provided by Richmond-based CSX Corp.
He was whisked from meeting to meeting in a new limousine, purchased from Holiday Oldsmobile-Cadillac-GMC in Williamsburg for $37,000 (minus an $18,000 trade-in on the old limo, which Gov. Charles S. Robb used and which had 115,000 miles on it).
Before the "Northern Virginia work week" ended Saturday, Baliles also had been transported in a chartered airplane (to view rush hour with WMAL's traffic reporter), a chartered bus (to an Orioles game in Baltimore), a reserved mobile lounge (to inspect midfield terminals at Dulles International), a reserved Metro train (to dedicate an extension of the Orange Line) and a state police helicopter. He left Saturday morning on a private airplane for a political meeting in Southwest Virginia.
The one specific suggestion from a Post reader that Baliles accepted was to see an abbreviated performance of "Macbeth," performed by students of Kenmore Intermediate School in Arlington. Even then, however, just as ". . . Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come . . . .," the show came to Baliles, performed at his temporary office at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale.
A few ordinary citizens managed to collar the governor.
Terry Carroll complained of the inaccessibility of the West Falls Church Metro station to wheelchair users, prompting Baliles to instruct his chief gofer, H. Benson Dendy III, whom he inherited along with chief-of-staff David McCloud from the Robb administration, to look into the situation.
The parents of 8-year-old Joseph Norcross of Arlington nudged him up beside the governor long enough to take their pictures together, during which the governor, who talks about reading almost as much as he reads, urged Joseph to "go to the library and check out a book."
One idea Baliles brought back with him was sparked by his ride with WMAL's traffic reporter Andy Parks. He plans to invite Parks, and his airborne counterparts from the state's other urban areas, to the Capitol for a discussion on traffic with highway planners. "These guys know exactly what's going on down there," said an admiring Baliles. "When there was a tie-up, Andy knew exactly where to suggest a detour."
Baliles said he found "a picture is worth 1,000 words; there is no substitute for being some place. For instance, later, at a budget briefing, I don't need to go back again and see Rte. 28" to know what the problems are on that major artery near Dulles.
For Baliles, a native of southern Virginia, the trip was "not only symbolic" but also was an effort to "capture information from the very people who make the decisions."
It was, for the most part, a Democratic show. The two Republicans who represent Northern Virginia in Congress, Stan Parris and Frank R. Wolf, old hands at being at the right place at the right time, managed to share the spotlight a few times -- Parris at the Mount Vernon meeting with Maryland Gov. Harry R. Hughes, where Parris was introduced as the "representative of the hydrilla district," and Wolf at the Orange Line dedication.
The best speech of the week was delivered there, by Arlington County Board Chairman Mary Margaret Whipple, who offered a parody of "The Little Train That Could," which had the double benefit of entertaining the many children in the crowd and being clever. Metro, she said, will prove to be the "litle train that could" be fully built.
Baliles said he encountered no surprises, because he "knew, read and studied" the problems, but he said his visit helped "put a focus on the intensity" of the challenges and build support for education and transportation projects.
Everywhere he went, he saw signs of growth and heard predictions of more growth. "When you have growth," Baliles said, "competing forces can't be overlooked. There are some remarkable historical places . . . they should not be bulldozed out of existence."
A highlight, he said, was being able to "feel the excitement" at the graduation at the Bryant Adult and Community Education Center in Alexandria, where a man, 81, and woman, 76, were among those who received high school certificates. "There was something in the atmosphere," the governor said.
Del. Alan E. Mayer (D-Fairfax) called the trip "a well-orchestrated, blockbuster tour," but warned that there is "a good deal of cynicism about whether anyone can do anything" about traffic congestion amidst the prevailing prodevelopment atmosphere of Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. "There is a good deal of political risk in promising solutions; he's putting his reputation on the line."