Customers trapped in long lines and a busy parking lot at the Manassas post office can console themselves with this fact: In a few years' time, the U.S. Postal Service plans to build another Manassas post office to better serve the area's rapid growth.

The additional post office will be located in the northwest region of the city and will serve one of Manassas's four zip codes. Construction is tentatively slated to start in 2002 and is estimated to take 10 to 14 months.

The building is expected to cost roughly $5.7 million.

The news should provide some relief to those who have endured long waits to send packages or buy stamps at the current post office during peak hours.

"Sudley Road and that whole area on Saturday mornings and at other times is definitely very congested," said City Manager Larry Hughes.

"It's growing out here, and I think [the post office has] just outgrown the space they're in."

The northwest corner of the Manassas postal district has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, according to Richard Strasser, manager for the Northern Virginia district of the U.S. Postal Service. Since early 1998, Strasser's office has registered about 400 new delivery sites -- residences and businesses -- in that zone.

"That's a whole new carrier route in a year and a half," he said.

The Postal Service's five-year plan, submitted earlier this month to the National Capital Planning Commission, included plans to build or expand numerous post offices in Northern Virginia -- in Clarendon, Old Town Alexandria, Fairfax and Winchester, among other places.

Post offices are currently under construction in Sterling, Herndon, Centreville, Great Falls and elsewhere.

"We are a very fast-growing postal district -- we added 15,000 new deliveries last year," Strasser said. "There's more pieces of mail delivered on average per day per delivery than anywhere else in the nation."

The Postal Service will start discussing where best to put the new building with the Manassas community in the coming year, Strasser said, and in a best-case scenario, plans to select and purchase a site in 2001.