THE NEXT generation of cicadas is likely to come and go well before greater Washington gets going on major transportation projects that should have been in place long ago. The political will to raise the necessary money has been weak to nonexistent for decades, compounding costs as well as congestion. Yet over the past several weeks, we have spotted a few small signs of renewed interest in reviving some projects -- or at least thinking about them again.

The idea of building a new Potomac River crossing west of the Capital Beltway, for example, is back in play. Virginia transportation officials have released a study that ought to spur fresh support for this project. Three years ago a study was initiated and then canceled by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) when some of his constituents voiced strong opposition even to some fact-finding. The new study, prompted by Virginia Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R) and James P. Moran Jr. (D), who support another bridge, looked at traffic on the American Legion Bridge.

As reported by The Post's Steven Ginsberg, the study found that nearly two-thirds of Maryland commuters head west to job centers once they enter Virginia, while a similar number of Virginians turn east once they enter Maryland. Thousands of other motorists make horseshoe commutes between the western suburbs of both states. David Marin, a spokesman for Mr. Davis, said the findings highlight the need for a new river crossing, adding that the congressman will "push forward the idea." A "techway" connecting Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland high-tech commercial areas -- with attention to environmental concerns -- ought to proceed.

In Maryland, transportation officials continue to explore ways to speed construction of a long-overdue intercounty connector to link Interstate 270 in Montgomery County and Interstate 95 in Prince George's County. For this and other projects in the state, officials are looking at private funding possibilities. In both states, transportation officials are studying plans to widen strips of the Capital Beltway.

The revival of studies includes a new look at the effects of widening the westbound portion of Interstate 66 in Arlington County. It was initiated by Mr. Davis and Mr. Wolf, agreed to by Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) and approved last month by the Transportation Planning Board. Anybody who spends major parts of the day crawling through this area already knows what the study will show: that widening that highway is a must.

As commuters know all too well, studies haven't gotten the jobs done in the past. If state and local leaders again back off when the financial going gets tough, the going anywhere in this region will worsen.