Few dispute the plight of commuters in Prince William County, where a morning drive to Washington can take two hours, or that new routes north would significantly improve motorists' lives.

Yet last week when county officials had the chance to get free land for one such highway, known as Ridgefield Road, they turned it down -- at the urging of a supervisor who represents Dale City residents who don't want the road in their neighborhood.

The current Ridgefield Road controversy is the latest in a series of flaps that have slowed planning of the six-lane controlled access parkway through Prince William and Fairfax counties.

It illustrates how local concerns can hold up regional transportation solutions and contribute to area-wide gridlock.

"I don't think I have ever been as disgusted with a vote in my life," said Supervisor Edwin C. King (D-Dumfries), who opposed the decision. "Twenty-five years ago, an outer beltway was planned and local politicians acting in a manner like five {board} members acted . . . is why we don't have it."

Supervisor Terrence Spellane (I-Coles) last week unexpectedly used a rezoning for a residential and commercial center to put a major obstacle in the way of plans for Ridgefield, an 11 1/2-mile parkway that would give Prince William residents, 55 percent of whom commute north to work, an alternative to crowded Interstates 95 and 66.

Spellane, who along with the rest of the board is up for reelection in 1991, persuaded the supervisors to turn down land a developer donated for an interchange at Ridgefield and Davis Ford Road.

The 5-2 vote means the busy intersection would have a stoplight, making it more dangerous and less useful to commuters, and may doom the off-again, on-again road, which would carry 50,000 cars daily, said Prince William transportation planner Jack Wierzenski.

"This has been the first time in history that we have refused to accept {donated} right-of-way from a developer," King said.

Ridgefield Road has been in regional transportation plans since the mid-1970s, despite opposition from homeowners along its route in Prince William and Fairfax.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has never allocated money for the project, but the Prince William planning staff has persuaded developers to donate nearly $6 million in right-of-way. No plans have been made to actually build the road.

Spellane's move all but forces the planning staff to look for other routes to carry heavy commuter traffic.

Spellane said his Dale City constituents didn't want a new road going through there. "Spriggs Road is already set up to be four lanes and so is Hoadly. Those roads are already there," he said.

A recent Planning Department study showed that western alternatives would be less effective, but Spellane's fellow Dale City representative, John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco), contends that moving the route further west "is a more functional alignment . . . {because eastern traffic} is pretty well taken care of with Route 1 and the express lanes on I-95."

Last week's 5-2 vote stands in contrast to a March rezoning that also included land for Ridgefield Road.

The board voted to accept that land by a 5-2 vote, with Spellane and Jenkins objecting.

In winning the rejection of land for an interchange, Spellane took advantage of the board's political courtesy, which suggests that in rezoning cases lawmakers should follow the lead of the supervisor who represents the area. The March rezoning was not in Spellane's district.

"I'm not convinced things are ever going to move on Ridgefield Road," said Board Chairman Robert L. Cole (D-Gainesville), who represents the county's far western end.

He said an interchange would not fit with the county's plans to turn the area into an upscale office and residential district.

The developers of the planned Town Center, Second Carr Properties Inc., had some inkling the road might become controversial.

"The thought crossed my mind. We clearly wrote the proffers {proposed land and monetary donations} so the board could pick" which donations to accept, said Michael D. Lubeley, attorney for the developers.

The move surprised even Dale City residents who had worked with the developer on the rezoning.

"The people who want to move traffic won't vote for {Spellane} but the people in his district will like it," said Dale City Civic Association president A.V. "Vic" Poillucci, who supported the original rezoning package.

Spellane's maneuver does not doom the road completely, because Second Carr agreed to build the section of Ridgefield Road that runs through its 158-acre property -- if the state transportation department builds the rest of it.

But the lack of an interchange significantly weakens Prince William's position in its debate with Fairfax about the road, which would link Route 234 and the Fairfax County Parkway, officials said.

Prince William officials have accused Fairfax lawmakers who opposed the road of shortsightedly putting the comfort of a few neighborhoods ahead of regional needs. Now Prince William supervisors apparently have done the same.

"It makes me wonder," said Supervisor Kathleen K. Seefeldt (D-Occoquan), who favored accepting land for the interchange, "do we really want to solve long-term problems or don't we?"