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Slugging, Busing at Backlick?

State transportation officials are moving forward with plans to put a Park and Ride lot at North Backlick Road in Springfield.

A new parking lot for commuters on North Backlick Road in Springfield would alleviate the stress of rush hour and encourage mass transit use and carpooling, according to those involved with the project.

Doug Miller, special program manager with Arlington-Fairfax Preliminary Engineering at VDOT, said that the proposed Park and Ride lot at Backlick Road has been "on the books" for some time but is now in the phase of collecting feedback from the public before moving ahead.

"It’s not a parcel that probably has a whole lot of potential associated with it," said Miller, of the approximately 4.2-acre facility.

An open house took place on Dec. 1, at Robert E. Lee High School, with representatives from VDOT, as well as Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), fielding questions and offering information on the project.

"As is the case anywhere in Fairfax County, wherever you can provide a reasonably located, reasonably buffered location for carpooling, slugging or catching a bus, we need to make it happen," said Kauffman.

The lot, located on the east side of the intersection of Backlick Road and the Franconia-Springfield Parkway, offers nearly 275 parking spaces, as well as bicycle lockers and a bus stop. The estimated total cost of the lot would be nearly $10 million, with a construction cost of nearly $2 million. According to Miller, what made this site a prime candidate was the fact that much of the facility and right of way is already owned by VDOT.

"One of the things that was driving it is the fact that VDOT owns two of three parcels of land already," said Miller. "There’s not a lot of right-of-way costs associated with it."

One parcel of 1.25 acres of right of way must still be acquired, but that parcel is currently vacant. No displacements of families or businesses in the area are currently anticipated.

THE MAJORITY of residences to be affected by this project would be homes on Villa Park Road and others that have an outlet onto Backlick Road. The traffic patterns would be affected during construction, as well as due to the increased traffic on Backlick once the project is completed.

"The most significant challenge we face with this lot is solving for traffic movement on Backlick, and frankly we need to do that now," said Kauffman. "It's incumbent upon us to work on that problem today and have that solved as much as is possible before this lot could conceivably open in 2006."

The goal of the project, in conjunction with the ongoing Springfield Interchange Project, would be to encourage commuters to consider creative ways of getting to work, including mass transit systems like bus and train, as well as taking advantage of the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.

"Anytime you increase the opportunity for people to park and ride, you're doing a positive thing," said Steve Titunik, project manager for the Springfield Interchange Project for VDOT. "Obviously, the greater Springfield area is becoming more popular, whether people live there or they're coming from somewhere else."

Those wishing to make comments about the project can still submit them to VDOT until Dec. 11. Once input has been received, VDOT must receive approval both from the Commonwealth Transportation Board and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, before beginning the process of right-of-way acquisition. A current timeline has construction beginning in early 2006.