BARELY HAD the gavels in Richmond struck Virginia's legislature into adjournment when Fairfax County's local leaders seized an important opportunity to deliver significant road improvements to the region. It will still be a while before you can count on shaving your morning and evening drive time through the county, but good things are about to happen. With the help of voters and the highway department, one of these good things will be the Springfield Bypass. Here's what the latest Richmond-to-Fairfax maneuvers have provided:

A bill passed by the state legislators -- from whom all money blessings flow in Virginia -- allows greater borrowing power for localities to finance road improvements. The general assembly previously had set the county's borrowing ceiling through road bonds at $55 million. But the latest change made it possible to put together a bond- issue proposal that could direct up to $80 million to road improvements in Fairfax.

That's what the county supervisors moved to do, voting unanimously for a referendum on a bond issue for a package of highway projects that could be "fast- tracked" -- highway-department lingo meaning they could get quicker approval than usual from the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation. The big project would be the bypass, which would connect Route 7 in the northwest section of the county with I-95 in the southeast, as a sort of "outer beltway." Object: to ease what has come to be terrible congestion throughout the county.

The route for this bypass has been set for nearly four years; but until now, the road itself was limited to dreams of county officials. As Supervisor Martha V. Pennino of Centreville commented, "I think the expectations of our citizens have been heightened." Already, the supervisors are working with the highway department on target dates for various construction stages -- a good way to monitor prog project if the bond proposal is approved.

This, in turn, will free the supervisors to concentrate on still other proposals to move traffic through the three main corridors in Fairfax County. With the bypass on the horizon, Chairman John F. Herrity and his board-member colleagues now can look beyond their most immediate needs to the even more complex challenge of coordinating transportation for a large and fast-growing region of Virginia that extends well beyond Fairfax County.