- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

Metro is one step closer to having to rename its National Airport subway stop to reflect the official name of the airport, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, after the House Appropriations Committee yesterday approved an amendment forcing the transit agency to make the change.
The amendment by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Kansas Republican, was approved by voice vote, and the entire $59 billion transportation appropriations bill was also approved. The full House is expected to vote on the overall transportation bill, with the amendment, by the Fourth of July recess.
Mr. Tiahrts measure, which was first reported yesterday by The Washington Times, calls for Metro to "modify the signs at the transit station, and all maps, directories, documents and other records published by the authority, to reflect the redesignation."
The amendment requires the signs to read "Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport," at the Metro stop but does not provide the $400,000 Metro says it needs to make the change at the airport and on the pylons at the 29 other Blue and Yellow line stations, on maps inside the 764 rail cars, and on maps at its 83 stations.
"We felt like this has gone on too long. We simply want it to be accurate. This should not be a political thing," Mr. Tiahrt, a member of the committee, told The Times after the vote. "This was just something that needed to happen."
Mr. Tiahrt said he doesnt expect any problems with the amendment as it gets voted on, as part of the transportation bill, by the full House. Nor does he expect the Senate to pose any problems for its passage.
The airport in Arlington County was renamed Feb. 6, 1998 — Mr. Reagans birthday — a year after Congress approved the change, with President Clinton signing the bill into law.
The granite sign in front of the airport was changed soon after the law went into effect, as were road signs, maps, and other markers, but Metro didnt change the name of the station on the Blue and Yellow lines.
"I just want them to have a plan to do it," Mr. Tiahrt said. "I purposely didnt put any penalties or timeline in [the bill]. They could just tack it on in the future."
The next time Metro has plans to revamp its systems maps, literature and other documents is when the Red Line New York Avenue station opens in 2004. Mr. Tiahrt said it would be fine by him for the transit agency — which was created by Congress in 1967 and receives millions in federal funding each year — to make the changes at that time.
Metro has said it would cost about $400,000 to make the name changes systemwide.
In March, Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, wrote to Metro General Manager Richard A. White, asking him to change the stations name. Mr. White then asked Metros board of directors to take up the issue at its April meeting.
Twenty-three Republican House members, including Mr. Barr and House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, asked the agencys board of directors — which is charged with renaming stations — to make the change, but the board refused to discuss the matter at its April 19 meeting.
Mr. Barr and others had threatened to hold up funding.
Mr. Tiahrt said "there was no good reason" that Metro couldnt rename the airport stop, especially since it had, at the behest of board members, renamed seven other stations since the law took effect. In fact, Metro has spent $713,000 to make the changes at those seven stations, which have included the lengthening of station names.
Mr. Barr praised the move by the Appropriations Committee, adding that he thought it was unfortunate that Congress had to intervene.
"[The] vote is a statement the Appropriations Committee will not allow petty partisan politics to be standard operating procedure by entities who are recipients of hundreds of millions of federal taxpayer dollars," Mr. Barr said in a statement.
In order to meet the congressional mandate, Metro may have to find the $400,000 in its operations budget, Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said.
"This is the first step in the process," Mr. Feldmann said. "We will wait to see what the Senate does next."
Mr. Feldmann said if the ultimate outcome is that the stations name be changed, then Metro "will certainly comply."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said he thought spending money on such a name change was foolish. "I really wonder whether its fair for us to push another unfunded mandate on local government. Why should we force them to spend $400,000 they dont have?" Mr. Daschle told reporters in comments aired on WTOP Radio. "Id much rather have that money go to public safety and infrastructure repair and maintenance."
Senate sources have said, however, that "not much of a fight" would be put up by Democrats, who hold a slim majority in the Senate.
Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, spoke forcefully against the amendment and said that he may even offer a bill of his own to get rid of the Tiahrt amendment.
Mr. Moran said the move by Mr. Tiahrt goes against not only the will of the local community, but also Mr. Reagans legacy.
"There is no question in my mind he would have vigorously opposed this," Mr. Moran said of what he thought Mr. Reagan, who is suffering from Alzheimers disease, would say about Mr. Tiahrts move.
Mr. Reagan stood for local control, not federal intervention, Mr. Moran said. And in passing the amendment, Congress "was imposing an unfunded federal mandate" upon localities that do not want the stations name changed, he said.

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