IT'S FITTING that one of Virginia Gov. Mills Godwins's last official acts was to carry out his pledge to clear the way for shifting to Metro some $38 million in federal interstate highway funds. True, Mr. Godwin did have to be pushed. In a commendable step, Transportation Secretary Brock Adams reminded the governor quite sharply the other day that he had yet to follow through on this key aspect of the intricate deal in which Mr. Godwin had won federal backing for the controversial completion of I-66. But now, though litigation continues, that commuter road - which Mr. Godwin fought so hard for - is being built. The funds transfer, which he resisted, just cements his reputation as a governor who drove very hard bargains and then lived up to them.
The $38-million transfer, Virginia's first, is also fitting in another sense. It coincides with the transfer of state power today from Mr. Godwin to Gov.-elect John N. Dalton, who has expressed much more support for Metro and has generally shown more sympathy for Northern Virginia's great transportation problems and needs.
So far, though, the extent of his enthusiasm is not entirely clear. For instance, Mr. Dalton has often endorsed the $10 million in state aid to Metro that was appropriated last year. The key question is how he plans to read the legisiature's requirement that Metro, before getting the funds, must furnish a financial plan. Metro officials and area state legislators maintain that this condition can be met by the existing plans for the 60-mile rail system now being built, and that the state need not sit on its funds until all of the rethinking of the hall 100-mile network has been completed later this year. We think this is a reasonable approach. By adopting it, Mr. Dalton can give Metro both some useful funds and a very welcome sign of support.
Beyond that, Mr. Dalton has shown some interest in enlarging the state's role in Metro financing, perhaps by assuming some share of interest payments on the system's bonds. And he has not specifically ruled out, as far as we know, giving Northern Virginia's cities and counties authority to adopt special taxes to help finance their shares of Metro construction and operating costs. We hope taht Mr. Dalton's specific proposals in these areas will be forthcoming soon. Metro has already made progress in Virginia, and this week's transfers could make the trip ahead much less bumpy for everyone.