A proposal to build a garage and maintenance facility for 250 Metro busses on 33 acres near the Springfield Mall brought little opposition at a public hearing last week, although similar plans at other locations in Springfield sparked a controversy two years ago.
About 30 people turned out for the hearing at Lee High School Oct. 3, but only six speakers addressed members of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which jointly sponsored the hearing. Most speakers asked the Metro board to ensure that pollution and traffic do not become worse because of the additional buses in the area.
"We know we're going to have problems with the traffic. Let's not beat around the bush," said Liles Creighton, of Fairfax County's Lee District Transportation Committee. "We already have problems with the traffic."
But Creighton added that the garage is "badly needed" because of the high costs of operating the bus and subway system and the mandate to local governments in the Washington area to reduce auto traffic and the pollution it brings.
"Two-hundred-fifty buses are a lot better than 2,500 cars," he said.
D.W. Amick, president of the Springfield Forest Citizens' Association, told Metro officials that the 206 association members have indicated they would support the proposal if certain traffic and environmental problems caused by the rapid growth of the area are addressed, such as establishing a commuter parking ban.
"In general, we've seen a quality of living reduction," he said. "Thus, a Metro bus garage in our back yard did not make Springfield Forest happy . . . (However) an efficient transportation system must be brought to Fairfax County. But we insist that the environmental impact of that system be acceptable to Fairfax County."
The Metro staff has recommended that the site south of Springfield Mall between the RF&P Railroad tracks and Loisdale Road be used for the garage. The site is just southwest of the proposed Franconia Metrorail station. The new facility, which will cost $9 to $12 million, would save the transit authority an estimated $420,000 a year thatis currently spent shuttling empty buses between garages in Arlington and Alexandria and the outer edges of Metro-bus lines in Fairfax County. Most of the cost is for drivers' salaries.
Paul Lapsley, a member of the Springfield Estates-Woods Civic Association, questioned whether the savings were important. He told the audience that the $420,000 is 8 percent of Metro's deadhead, or empty bus, cost. He aslo asked Metro officials to consider carefully the health and environmental problems that could be caused by the diesel exhaust from the 250 buses. Lapsley, who works for the Environmental Protection Agency, said many of the possible damaging effects of diesel exhaust are just being discovered.
Construction of a garage in the Springfield area is supported by Fairfax County officials, who have said county taxpayers bear most of the present extra costs in the form of operating subsidies paid to Metro.
But in May 1976, three nearby sites were proposed fr the garage facility. All three met with objections from the neighbors in the areas involved.