RICHMOND, JAN. 27 -- Sen. Charles L. Waddell (D-Loudoun) warned today that a proposal to eliminate car pool lanes on the Virginia Beach-Norfolk expressway imperils construction of additional High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes in Northern Virginia.

Waddell, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, managed to stall the proposal, which was primed for passage in the Senate today, charging that it is "not a local issue," as its backers contend, but "something of statewide importance."

The measure is the latest attack on commuter lanes, which Waddell conceded are unpopular with drivers traveling alone. But he vowed to "declare war on one-man, one-car" advocates.

HOV laws, which restrict designated lanes to vehicles carrying at least two, three or four occupants, are employed in Virginia only in Northern Virginia (on Interstates 66, 95 and 395, Washington Street and Rte. 1 in Alexandria, Rtes. 50 and Wilson Boulevard in Fairfax and Arlington) and in the Tidewater area on Rte. 44, a toll road that connects the oceanfront in Virginia Beach with I-64 in Norfolk.

Tuesday night, less than a month after car pool lanes were imposed on Rte. 1 in Alexandria, the City Council there voted to ease the requirements.

A recent study found that the two HOV-4 lanes on the packed Shirley Highway (I-395) carry about 16,000 people a day during the rush hours, while only 10,000 use the other four lanes.

"People don't want to car pool," Waddell said, but in high-growth areas such as Virginia Beach and Northern Virginia, he said, failure to encourage car pools will "result in traffic catastrophes."

State Transportation Secretary Vivian E. Watts said the Virginia Beach legislation could cost the state $95 million in federal highway funds that have been earmarked to pay for construction of HOV lanes on I-64 in Hampton Roads, scheduled to be opened in 1992. If the HOV lanes on the connecting expressway are not in place at that time, the federal money would be lost, Watts said.

Sen. Moody E. Stallings Jr. (D-Virginia Beach), a freshman legislator who campaigned on a promise to eliminate the 18-month-old experiment on Rte. 44, said his bill calls for restoring the HOV lanes when the I-64 lanes are completed.

The expressway's HOV lanes are so underused, Stallings said, that "you could roller skate" along it at the height of the rush hour.

Stallings said the proposal is supported by all but one of his region's legislators.

Stallings circulated a letter to Rep. Owen B. Pickett, the area's congressman, from the Federal Highway Administration, which he said supported his view that the HOV lanes can be opened to all motorists in the meantime.

Waddell said a higher percentage of vehicles are using the Virginia Beach HOV lane than used similar lanes when the experiment was introduced in Northern Virginia in the early 1970s. "And now {the Shirley Highway lanes} are the most successful in the United States," said Waddell.

Opposition to the proposal appears to be centered in the Northern Virginia delegation, but even there it is not solid.