Growth along Highway Shows dynamism.(FRIDAY HOME GUIDE)(FOCUS: VIRGINIA'S INTERSTATE 95 CORRIDOR AND WOODBRIDGE)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 14, 2002 | Go to article overview

Growth along Highway Shows dynamism.(FRIDAY HOME GUIDE)(FOCUS: VIRGINIA'S INTERSTATE 95 CORRIDOR AND WOODBRIDGE)


Byline: Carisa Chappell, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

From museums and innovative business districts to red-hot shopping megaplexes and luxury housing developments, Virginia's Interstate 95 corridor - along a bustling thoroughfare that runs from Springfield in Fairfax County through Stafford County - is an ever-changing work in progress.

Some 43 years since the state's first section of the highway opened near the southern town of Emporia, I-95 has become the main artery of the East Coast and a catalyst for business hopes and suburban dreams.

Travel along I-95, and it becomes obvious that the interstate is more than just asphalt and overpasses. It's an eclectic mix of history, progress, economic growth and rural charm, where old country stores and historic buildings coexist with a growing biotech influence.

In 1956, Congress authorized development of a 40,000-mile interstate highway system. The highlight of this system was I-95, running from the Canadian border in Maine down the East Coast of the United States to Miami.

Virginia's maze of interstate highways was completed in 1992, spurring a multitude of public transportation systems, private business ventures and home construction that continues.

Perhaps more than any other thing, the I-95 corridor has changed the perception of Northern Virginia, making the area one of the most desirable and affluent parts of the country.

A recent study by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) revealed just how congested the area has become. Since 1998, the number of people carpooling or riding buses on the I-95/395 high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes has increased 47.5 percent outside the Beltway and 18 percent inside the Beltway. In fact, I-95 has become so much of a commuter highway that VDOT has constructed more than 2,500 parking spaces along the I-95 corridor - twice the number initially planned. Another 2,000-plus spaces will be added by next summer, officials say.South of Washington, the I-95 corridor begins as a branch of I-495 in Springfield. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority touts the interstate - along with a regional transit hub that includes Metrorail, Virginia Railway Express, Metrobus and the Fairfax County Connector bus service - as a fast and easy option to access the nation's capital.

According to a report the authority published last year, the Springfield area has as much commercial space as Burke, Franconia and Lorton combined.

"Springfield is definitely a retail hot spot; there has been a lot of action around the Springfield Mall area," says Allen Fog, the authority's communications manager.

Home Depot, Old Navy and Borders Books all have opened near the mall in the past three years. A Marriott Residence Inn also opened recently.

"There is not as much growth in commercial office space, but that should be coming soon," Mr. Fog says. The Central Springfield Area Revitalization Council has proposed creating a pedestrian-friendly downtown area in Springfield with retail, business offices and residences on land north of Old Keene Mill Road and east of Amherst Avenue.

Several companies have recently announced expansions in Springfield. Interstate Worldwide Relocation, a multimillion-dollar enterprise employing more than 300 people, will invest $1.2 million in its Springfield expansion. Innovative Technology Applications Inc. will create 260 new jobs once its Springfield location expands.

The area near the Franconia-Springfield Metrorail station is emerging as a biotechnology hub. A 7,288-square-foot "business incubator" is scheduled to open this summer. Called a "Bioaccelator," it will occupy the second floor of a two-story building and will house 12 start-up companies that use computers to further biotechnology research.

"We would love to see that become a bioscience commercial area," Mr. …

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