Prince William County's first telecommuting center opened this week in Woodbridge, providing federal workers with a place to plug in and work closer to home.

The Telework Center, on Minnieville Road, features 20 separate cubicles, teleconferencing capabilities, computer hookups, fax machines and phones. It is the 17th federally funded center of its kind in Northern Virginia.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), whose district has 60,000 federal employees, helped secure funding for all 17 centers. The centers are available for federal employees only, "but that may change in time," he said.

The centers were built with federal money, at a total cost of $1.9 million, and are supported by U.S. agencies. Workers do not pay to use the centers, but each time they do, their agencies are charged for the visit. Each federal agency has allocated money in its budget for the centers, which are available 24 hours a day.

Davis said there is a great need for telecommuting centers. He noted that when a truck carrying highly explosive powder crashed at the Springfield interchange, causing the closing of parts of the Capital Beltway and Interstate 395, all centers were full that day in June.

Davis added that he expects more use of the centers during the construction of the Springfield Mixing Bowl.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who worked with Davis on the funding of the centers, introduced legislation in Congress this month that would provide financial incentives to businesses that allow employees to work from home on certain days.

Although the region's telecommuting centers are just for federal employees, "there is an initiative to broaden the whole picture," said Roseanne Dupras, Wolf's press secretary.

Davis said he hopes to get more Telework Centers in Prince William.