On the Roads Again in Virginia
ENOUGH VICTORY-SAVORING by all those newly elected and re-elected state officials in Virginia -- it's back to the age-old battle of Richmond, with a vengeance. It's time already to choose sides for another round of country versus urban/suburban -- and the trigger word is roads. The legislative powers that be have fired warning shots across the bow of Northern Virginia; and yesterday their fire was returned during a lively set-to in Hot Springs. Sectionalism lives -- and Gov.-elect Gerald L. Baliles had best get ready for it when the General Assembly takes to its seats in January.
The first words -- anything but endearing -- came from State Sen. Edward F. Willey of Richmond, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He threatened to eliminate the state's subsidy for Metrorail unless Northern Virginia legislators accept a big road-financing proposal that would be tilted to the country raods in a way that could undo a good formula agreed to at this year's session. If Northern Virginia's lawmakers "expect to get any money for Metrorail," said Sen. Willey, "they better damn well support" a new plan he's drafting for road projects. This set the tone for the annual meeting of the Virginia Association of Counties in Hot Springs. Fairfax County and suburban allies challenged the rural areas by proposing a statewide road bond of at least $500 million. That set off House Speaker A. L. Philpott of Henry County, who walked out of a Monday discussion of the idea. Yesterday, Fairfax and Friends prevailed by a narrow margin -- the association endorsed the bond issue. While this organization has no authority to make law, yesterday's vote -- along with another one that shifts voting power within the association to the more populous counties -- indicate legislative power shifts in Virginia.
So where do you look for results? Try the governor's office: Mr. Baliles, after all, correctly pointed to transportation as a high priority issue for his administration. If the forces of reason in the legislature aren't able to horse-trade their way to an agreement, the new governor will have a golden opportunity to show his promised stuff.