- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2000

Ronald Reagan's legacy has gotten a boost from Metro's general manager, Richard A. White.

In a letter to four key congressmen, Mr. White welcomes the idea of painting over the old National Airport subway stop signs and starting to call the airport's station something closer to its real name, Ronald Reagan National Airport.

Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, has drafted legislation mandating that Metro correct the name of the Blue/Yellow Line station within six months and authorizes $150,000 for the project.

Mr. Young's bill comes up a little short, however. Once Metro adds on the cost of reprinting its booklets, maps and literature, the cost will be closer to $300,000, Mr. White wrote in the letter obtained by The Washington Times.

Mr. Young took action on the issue after The Times informed his office last week that two years and eight months after the airport's name was officially changed, new arrivals to the District of Columbia from tourists to business travelers were being sent to an airport that no longer exists, even if in name only.

The letter also said Metro would have renamed the station two years ago when other government agencies changed their directional signs, but they were never asked to as red tape required.

Mr. White's letter explained that Metro does not make such changes on its own. Each city and county has to have a voice in renaming Metro stops on their turf.

In this case, Arlington County, Va., would have made the request and public comment would have followed.

But at least three County Board members were not interested in the idea then, and aren't now.

"The thought hasn't crossed my mind," said Paul Ferguson, a Democrat. "I have had other things to worry about."

Mr. Ferguson said changing the name wouldn't clarify anything. Congress is simply meddling in local affairs, he added.

"I don't think anybody is confused… . It's the only airport on the subway line," he said. "I always am bothered by congressmen unnecessarily entering into local issues … but I don't doubt [Mr. Young's] love for President Reagan."

Arlington is not the only one that kept silent.

"To date, [Metro] has not received a formal request from any local jurisdiction or the Airports Authority for renaming the National Airport Station," Mr. White says.

Christopher E. Zimmerman, a Democrat and member of both the Metro and Arlington County boards, knew Mr. White had written the letter. So did Metro board chairman and D.C. representative Gladys W. Mack.

Mr. Zimmerman has said before that changing the name is unnecessary and "stupid." As far as Mr. White's letter goes, Mr. Zimmerman said, "I thought his letter explained the process nothing more, nothing less."

The County Board chairman, Barbara Favola, echoed Mr. Ferguson in saying changing the name of the station "never crossed [her] mind."

"I don't view this as partisan," Ms. Favola said. "If Congress feels strongly about it, they can move" to rename the station.

Mr. White's three-page epistle was sent to House Majority Whip Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican; Rep. Bud Shuster, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Rep. James L. Oberstar, Minnesota Democrat, and Mr. Young.

Under Metro's policy, the locality desiring a name change must pay for it. That includes Congress. Under Mr. Young's bill, the tab would be paid by federal money, either from Congress' or Metro's wallet.

"It's a pretty expensive proposition," said Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann. "… But if Congress is going to mandate that we do this, then that is something that we are going to have to look at."

Typically, Mr. Feldmann said, Metro doesn't change all of the maps, literature and station signs until there are numerous name changes.

"We don't make the changes if there's just one name change," Mr. Feldmann said.

Tara Hamilton, spokeswoman for the airport, said placing new directional signs on the road and at entrances especially helps tourists coming to the area for the first time.

Metro and the airport have not discussed renaming the subway stop, Miss Hamilton said, because it is not airport property.

More than 15 million passengers use the airport each year, and more of them are are using Metro, Miss Hamilton said.

"The station is very heavily used it's clearly a successful mass-transit option," Miss Hamilton said. "If Metro decided to change the name of the stop, it would be fine by us."

Miss Hamilton said she could not recall whether the airport discussed name changes with the Virginia Department of Transportation, which finished installing 20 road signs with the airport's new name in September 1998.

"I think that they just made the change," Miss Hamilton said. As for the National Park Service's new airport signs, she said, "they took a page from VDOT."

The Park Service has installed a dozen new airport signs on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, even though it initially had planned to ignore the name change.

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