Five governors signed a letter this month urging Congress to pass a bill giving states new powers to regulate the trade in interstate garbage. Missing from the list was Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R), who has made garbage restrictions a top priority of his administration but has been slow to lobby Congress on the issue.

The list of signers included the chief executives of several of the country's biggest garbage importers: Govs. Tom Ridge (R) of Pennsylvania, Christine Todd Whitman (R) of New Jersey, John Engler (R) of Michigan, Bob Taft (R) of Ohio and Frank L. O'Bannon (D) of Indiana.

Virginia's secretary of natural resources, John Paul Woodley Jr., said he had not heard of the letter but held out the possibility that Gilmore might want to sign it at some point. "I think our governor would be very interested in examining it," Woodley said.

Gilmore led the fight to impose new restrictions on landfill dumping and garbage barges in the legislative session earlier this year, but a federal judge blocked enforcement of those measures and said they likely are unconstitutional. Many political and legal experts think only congressional action can help states like Virginia, the country's second-largest garbage importer, slow the flow.

The Democrats, who have sharply criticized Gilmore for not taking the garbage fight to Congress, renewed their call for the governor to recruit his political ally Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. (R-Va.), chairman of the crucial Commerce Committee, to the fight.

"I think all along [Gilmore]'s so-called garbage crusade has been a charade to maximize his public relations exposure when minimizing the chance anything will be done to stanch the flow of out-of-state garbage," said Craig K. Bieber, executive director of the Virginia Democrats.

Touting a United Front on Transportation

Eager to galvanize support for transportation projects in Northern Virginia, two officials on Monday touted the unified regional approach that they credit with nabbing funds for road improvements.

Del. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D-Fairfax) and Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Kathleen K. Seefeldt (D) focused on gains made by the Northern Virginia delegation in the last state legislative session, bringing home $104 million in bonds for highway improvements. Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) reluctantly signed the bill in March.

The delegation from Northern Virginia had a fairly successful run this year in winning money to relieve trouble spots on secondary roads, even if congestion remains a major concern on primary thoroughfares throughout the region. Puller, who is running for state Senate, and Seefeldt, who is running to keep her supervisor's seat, said recent efforts should form a blueprint for the future.

"What we really need is to stop doing a piecemeal approach," Puller said. "We need to have a long-range comprehensive plan, so that every year we don't need to regroup and go down to the General Assembly and [re]make transportation policy."

Bond-funded improvements will include widenings along Route 123, Route 7, Lee Highway and Telegraph Road, and fixes to Routes 15 and 1.

Seefeldt and Puller stressed their own most valued achievement--$27 million in funds to expand a portion of two-lane Route 123.