- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2000

Everybody knows it as Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport except Metro, which refuses to change its subway station signs to reflect the airport's official name.

"Our property is separate from the airport's property," Metro spokeswoman Cheryl Johnson said of the Blue Line stop at the airport. "We have no intentions of changing it."

Internal Metro documents, as well as their public literature, also refer to the station as "National Airport."

Metro officials said the transit agency shies away from name changes because of the cost of painting and replacing signs, correcting maps and other materials.

But Metro renamed eight other stations from April 1999 to March at the request of regional jurisdictions Virginia, Maryland and the District that compose the transit agency's board.

The agency's inaction on renaming the station isn't sitting well with Reagan admirers on Capitol Hill.

House Majority Whip Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican and a supporter of the airport name change, said he can't understand why Metro is dragging its feet.

"As much as Metro would love to name it the Al Gore National Airport," Mr. DeLay said, "they have to face the reality that Congress has passed a law, signed by President Clinton, that calls this airport Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport."

Rep. Don Young an Alaska Republican who has been at the forefront of the effort to put a monument to Mr. Reagan on the Mall, said Metro needs to come to its senses.

"Metro receives significant federal dollars and the ridership associated with the airport," said Mr. Young. "It would only seem like common sense to the American taxpayer that this association would reflect the proper naming of our former president as the name of the airport."

Mr. Young, according to House staffers, plans to ask Congress to approve before the current session ends a measure that would require Metro to change the name and update its maps and documents within a specified time.

Congress approved the renaming of the airport in 1997, and the change took effect the following year on Feb. 6 Mr. Reagan's birthday.

Metro, created by Congress in 1967 as a regional transportation authority, is overseen by a six-member appointed board.

Ray Feldmann, another spokesman for the transit agency, said any effort to rename the station would have to originate with one of the Virginia representatives on the board, Christopher Zimmerman or Kate K. Hanley.

"It's not Metro's decision to go around and decide what names of stations should be," Mr. Feldmann said.

Mrs. Hanley didn't return calls from The Washington Times, but Mr. Zimmerman, a Democrat and a member of the Arlington County Council, said he is against renaming.

"Why would we change it?" Mr. Zimmerman said. "There are some people who want Ronald Reagan's name on every street in America."

Mr. Zimmerman said station names should be changed only if the change would better convey information to passengers a criteria, he said, that justifies Metro's recent spate of name changes.

Over the past 18 months, Metro has renamed eight stations. Woodley Park-Zoo station was changed to Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan, for example. Addison Road became Addison Road-Seat Pleasant.

But none of those name changes inflame the partisan passions associated with the former president.

"Everybody knows what station this is," Mr. Zimmerman said. "There are lots of things that have other names where people can use the longer name but usually tend to say it the easiest way they can."

One Democrat on the board, however, thinks the station's name should be updated.

"I would be very supportive of it," said Jim Graham, a Metro board member who also sits on the D.C. Council. "I think that our station names should be accurate."

Mr. Feldmann said station name changes can cost $100,000 or more, and those costs are generally assessed to the jurisdiction making the request.

Former Virginia Gov. George F. Allen, a Republican campaigning for Democrat Sen. Charles S. Robb's seat, said Metro should honor Mr. Reagan.

"None of these improvements to the airports would have been made without him," said Mr. Allen, who was at The Times yesterday for an editorial board meeting.

Both the National Park Service and Virginia's Department of Transportation have added Reagan to their signs and maps though it took some prodding from high-powered members of Congress to get the park service moving.

Tara Hamilton, the airport's spokeswoman, said new signs help the 15 million to 16 million passengers who flow through the airport especially those tourists unfamiliar with the airport's old name.

The subway's name, however, is Metro's responsibility, she said.

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