- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2000

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum will break ground Wednesday at Washington Dulles International Airport on a new home for 200 aircraft and 100 space relics that have been in storage for the past 25 years.

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, a 710,000-square-foot exhibition facility, will open on Dec. 17, 2003, the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' historic first flight.

"Our vision is to provide access to the public to those treasures that fully tell the stories of aviation and space flight," said Lin Ezell, coordinator for the center.

The Enterprise, America's first space shuttle, and the top-secret SR-1 Blackbird aircraft that have been in the museum's collection for years but locked away out of sight to the general public will be among the craft put on display.

The planes will continue to be stored at the Smithsonian's Garber facility in Silver Hill, Md., for the next three years.

"It's a tragedy they've been in storage for 25 years or longer. Eighty percent of the finest collection is in hiding out there," said Gen. John Dailey, director of the National Air and Space Museum.

The facility will be about the size of two and a half football fields, and ten stories high. "You could put the museum on the Mall inside the aviation hangar alone with plenty of room to spare," Ms. Ezell said.

Aside from creating an historical mark for the area, the economic impact will be significant, bringing about 3 to 4 million visitors to Dulles each year.

"We will certainly bring a lot of tourists to the area," Ms. Ezell said. "They'll be spending nights in hotels, buying gasoline, eating in restaurants. It should be good for everybody."

The entire project will cost $238 million. The federal government donated $8 million to the design of the project in 1993. Virginia has donated $40 million, Fairfax County has given $300,000, and individuals and industry associations donated $60 million. But they're still in the market for donations.

"We have about half of what we need," Gen. Dailey said. "But, America is not going to let us fail on this."

Alan Fogg, director of communications for the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, said donations to the project will come back to taxpayers in the form of other revenue.

"All those dollars spin off from restaurant and hotels out there," he said. "This is just a big feather in our cap toward quality of life."

Should the project be halted to raise more money, it will be stopped after buildings are erected, not while things are in the works, Gen. Dailey said.

Construction will begin with the present funding. So far, though, money has been the only problem, Gen. Dailey said.

Virginia and Fairfax County are already working on transportation enhancements to accommodate the increased traffic that could result from the new museum.

Virginia and Fairfax County have a 20-year plan to improve transportation to the Dulles corridor.

Express Bus Service, the first phase of the project, was up and running last July.

"We're getting great ridership We set a two-year goal and we met it the first year," said Young Ho Chang, director of Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Building a heavy rail system, basically extending Metrorail to that area by 2010, is currently in the works in what Mr. Chang calls "phase two."

Gen. Dailey expects the center will bring droves of layover passengers in as well, for the entertainment value.

Along with the artifacts, the center will have flight simulators, and an educational research center. Some of the benefactors suggested a 120-seat classroom with a laboratory, and the capability to transmit those lectures to classrooms all over the country. "We could bring astronauts in to do presentations and have it go to literally every school in the country that has access to electronic media," Gen. Dailey said. "It will commemorate, educated and inspire."

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