- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2000

Congress is aiming to teach Metro it's not nice to mess with Ronald Reagan, even if in name only.

House Republicans are preparing legislation that would force Metro to change its Blue/Yellow Line signs from NationalAirport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport its official name.

"We hope that this will be able to be settled within the next couple of days," said Greg Thom, a spokesman for Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican.

"We certainly don't want members of Congress, especially influential members, to be mad at us," said Metro General Manager Richard A. White.

The Washington Times first reported yesterday that the transit authority had refused to change its subway station signs and public literature to reflect the airport's new name.

Metro officials had said they shy away from name change 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 of Columbia that compose the transit agency's board.

House staffers said the new legislation would require Metro to change the name on all maps and signs within six months after the bill is enacted. The bill also would authorize $150,000 in federal funds for the project.

Staffers said the measure would be attached to one of two remaining appropriations bills that have yet to be voted on.

House Majority Whip, Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, is very interested in seeing the bill passed, a House staffer said.

One House source said Metro would not necessarily receive the money, since it has not yet been appropriated, but would still be required to make the changes.

In that scenario, Metro would need to go to Congress next year and ask for the money, the source added.

Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said the transit agency welcomes the congressional action but hopes funding will be attached to the mandate.

"Our position is the same: If we get a request from the local jurisdictions and certainly legislation by a member of Congress, we will eagerly look at the request or the legislation," Mr. Feldmann said.

Requests for sign changes typically are made by the locality where they are located, he said.

Neither of Virginia's two representatives on the six-member Metro board Arlington County Supervisor Chris Zimmerman and Fairfax County Board Chairman Kate K. Hanley has expressed interest in making the name change. They are both Democrats.

"This is … a stupid issue," Mr. Zimmerman said. "It's media-driven."

Mr. Feldmann, who estimated that changing Metro signs and literature would cost about $100,000, said he does not know exactly how many signs and postings would need alteration.

"We have pylons all along the Blue and Yellow lines that would have to be changed," he said.

A Metro source said privately that the transit agency is working with Mr. Young and others to make the name change happen.

Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said renaming the station "seems so contrary to Ronald Reagan's philosophy of smaller government and local control… . Basically, it's to satisfy the whim of a member of Congress."

Mr. Moran said most members of Congress will vote for the bill because they want to get out of town and on the campaign trail.

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

D.C. Council member David A. Catania, at-large Republican and Metro board member, said he thinks his GOP colleagues in Congress are wasting precious time.

"I just think the most important and powerful legislature in the world has better things to to do with their time," Mr. Catania said. "This is a case of first impressions… . It's a matter of Metro catching up with the times."

Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, said it is perfectly appropriate to rename the Metro stations and all signs leading to it.

"Absolutely," Mr. Wolf said. "Ronald Reagan was one of the best presidents we ever had. I came in [to the House] with Reagan."

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