Whatever else the members of Northern Virginia's legislative delegation may argue about, compete for or seek as individuals during the coming months, there is one issue that whips them into instant, rare unity: road money. The state has it. Northern Virginia needs it. But so do other regions in the state, and there isn't enough for everybody. Therein lies a challenging quest for the delegates and state senators from this part of Virginia, who must answer to more and more fuming rush-hour motorists every day. If the Northern Virginia lawmakers can't keep their own road- money bloc together, they may find the road back home to be rockier than ever.

For that matter, even if they hang together, the Northern Virginians will have to seek partners in the house and senate from other regions and -- here's the sophisticated part -- work out compromises that can prevail when it's time for the voting. The Richmond and Tidewater areas have similar road needs -- and the votes to make it interesting. But if individual blocs split off to join forces with different groups every time a new allocation plan is passed around, the grand result may be nothing for everybody.

After all, 1985 is an election year in the state, and politicians won't exactly be elbowing each other out of the way to lead a battle for a gasoline tax increase. But if the legislators and Gov. Robb had the collective political backbone to go for it, this would be the best way to avoid rural/urban-suburban warfare and angry constituents when it's over. Northern Virginia is not alone in its needs for road money. But without some creative politicking, it may wind up worse off than any other part of the state.