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A consulting firm aiming to squeeze some additional parking in Vienna’s commercial core has come up with a unique option: Turn parts of Maple Avenue into parking strips.

It is “a bit of an outside-the-box idea,” acknowledged David Samba, a project manager for Kimley-Horn, the engineering firm that is studying transportation options for Vienna under contract with the town government.

“There are challenges with it, obviously,” Samba said at a Sept. 4 transportation-planning forum that attracted about 40 town residents.

Maple Avenue – Vienna’s primary thoroughfare – currently offers two travel lanes in each direction, plus a turning lane in the center. The proposal, if it gains traction, wouldn’t seek to permanently remove any of those lanes from vehicular use, but could use the outside lanes for parking at times of the day when the road is not heavily traveled.

While the Kimley-Horn study has been focused mostly alleviating Maple Avenue gridlock, that issue can’t be addressed without also contending with the paucity of parking in Vienna’s core area.

Through the years, efforts to find public-parking solutions have come and gone:

• Six years ago, an effort to build a municipal-parking structure on Church St., N.W., through a public-private partnership fell apart.

• Earlier this year, town officials dissolved a proposed partnership with a developer that would have seen the town pay $4.6 million to own one level of parking at a commercial structure on Mill Street.

Town officials also have cast an eye on Patrick Henry Library, which is slated for replacement by the Fairfax County government. Proposals under consideration would include anywhere from 90 to 180 parking spaces available for town use.

And the welcome mat for those with other suggestions has been laid out. “We’re open to [speak with] anyone who wants to do public parking,” Town Manager Mercury Payton said earlier in the year.

Using travel lanes for parking during off-peak times would not be unique to the region; in Arlington, the four-lane South Four Mile Run Drive is narrowed to two travel lanes evenings and weekends to allow for parking on the outside lanes. But Maple Avenue – which serves both local and regional drivers – has significantly more traffic flow, which could make a similar effort unfeasible.

Samba told participants at the forum that another option would be to work with property owners for shared use of their facilities – allowing the public to park on private lots during off-peak times, such as when a business is not open.

Other local communities that have pushed that idea have found skittishness among existing property owners, although in some cases the governments have made shared use of parking a condition of approving redevelopment plans.

Brian Trompeter contributed to this report.

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