LIKE RUSH-HOUR commuters dashing for that last Orange Line train home, Northern Virginia's representives in Richmond are in a mad eleventh- hour scramble for Metro money--and things may be rolling too fast for them to make it on this trip. Still, as of last night--when the delegation members met to check strategies and schedules--the possibility of new funds for Metro was not out of sight.

The question now is what kind of agreements, commitments or informal understandings can be combined to ensure some fair treatment through a series of complex legislative maneuvers with gasoline taxes and budget money for roads. Earlier this week, the Senate Finance Committee refused to approve any funds for highways in the budget--a move thought to boost chances for additional Metro money in the budget when it is before a house-senate conference committee.

Now the game gets tricky: if the conferees won't guarantee in writing more dollars for Metro, should Northern Virginia's lawmakers get tough and coalesce with enough other legislators to reject the gasoline tax? Or would this not only backfire this year but also be remembered all too well when it's money time again next year? Or will verbal agreements to do well by Metro be honored? And while we're absorbing all this, where is Gov. Robb, anyway?

Working the phones, perhaps--if he still believes Metro is important. Obviously, accommodation in Richmond, built on a solid recognition that Virginia should have a balanced transportation system, is the sensible solution--but that said is not that done.