WHILE MORE THAN a few of Virginia's state legislators were making their nightly rounds of receptions after a hard day at the legislative office on Monday, Delegate Vivian Watts of Fairfax was delving deep into the higher math of road-money allocation formulas. It isn't that Mrs. Watts doesn't understand the intricacies of state road financing in Virginia. On the contrary, she has become an expert on road-money math. She has been

preparing useful information on

it for her colleagues in support of

a fair and urgently needed roads

proposal.

The idea, unlike the math of

it, is obvious. It's called your

basic lobbying approach: Provide each interested member with detailed information on whata compromise proposal would provide for his or her home district. That way, key committee members will be well briefed when it comes time to vote. Couple this with some discussions of mutual interests and trade-offs, and perhaps the requisite number of votes will materialize.

Too often in the past, various delegations -- including Northern Virginia's -- have come to Richmond with grand ideas for transportation improvements for their areas but have been unable to keep their legislative acts together long enough to bring home the money. Another danger -- still there -- is that the lawmakers fall into old rural-urban divisions that test tempers as much as voting strengths and rarely produce fair formulas.

This is a short-session year for the legislature, which is another way of saying that state elections are coming up. If the lawmakers are serious about producing a strong set of proposals to improve transportation in the state, they should welcome a chance for a reasonable compromise, which is now under rview. So far at least, they're off to an impressive start.