- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2001

More than 20 House Republicans are supporting a fellow members efforts to change the name of the Metro subway station at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
More than a month after U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, began a solo campaign to change the airport stations name, 21 House Republicans yesterday signed a letter requesting the name change. The letter is to be sent today to Metro General Manager Richard A. White.
"We look forward to the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority Board of Directors voting to change the signage," reads the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
The letter originates from Mr. Barrs office. Reps. Dan Burton of Indiana, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland are among the 22 Republicans who have signed it.
"Its a stopping-over point for people who are not from the area," said Bartlett spokeswoman Lisa Wright of the airport subway stop. "This shouldnt be political to remove potential confusion for travelers."
More than 100 House Republicans had a chance to sign the letter after receiving an e-mail seeking support.
A copy of a letter from House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, to Metro Board Chairman Decatur Trotter encouraging the boards support was attached to the e-mail.
The number of members signing the letter indicates a strong backing for Mr. Barrs attempt to change the station's name, said Barr spokesman Brian J. Walsh.
"Congressman Barrs argument is that this is something that should have been done long ago," Mr. Walsh said.
Metros board meets tomorrow to vote on whether to change the signs at the Blue and Yellow line airport stop. Of the six voting members, only one has indicated he will vote against the change.
Arlington County Supervisor Christopher E. Zimmerman, the Metro board member who opposes the name change, had no comment on the letter yesterday.
"Our concern now is partisan politics by some members of the Board seriously threatens the continuation of this positive relationship," the members wrote, referring to the millions of dollars in federal aid Metro has received since it was created by Congress in 1967.
Congress approved the name of the new airport in 1997, and the change took effect the following year on Feb. 6 Mr. Reagans birthday.
Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said he understands that out-of-state members of Congress would take an interest in the transit agency and its policies.
"When you operate a transit system as large as ours, touching more than a million people a day in the heart of the nations capital, you obviously are going to attract a lot of interest from members of Congress," Mr. Feldmann said.
To a large degree, he said, Metro is the "rope" in a "political tug-of-war" in which the transit agencys board is appropriately left to make policy decisions.
The Times first reported last month that Mr. Barr had sent a letter to Mr. White threatening to withhold federal funding for Metro if the transit agency did not change the station's name and any other literature, signs, or maps to reflect the change.
After Metro officials said the makeover of literature and signs systemwide would cost the transit agency $400,000, Mr. Barr sent another letter to Mr. White saying he would compromise and request Metro only change the signs at the airport.
Metro would be required to make the name change on all maps, literature and signs throughout its entire system when the Red Line New York Avenue station, which Congress appropriated $75 million for its construction, is completed in 2004.
Making the name change at the station alone would cost about $150,000 and would have to come from Metros operating funds budget.
Congress provided about $189 million as part of this years capital budget for Metro, which it created in 1967.
Tom Gordy, a spokesman for Rep. Ed Schrock, a Virginia Republican who signed the letter, said Metro should stop playing politics with Mr. Reagans legacy.
"If the Metro board is not willing to call the airport by its legal name, then Congress should take action as it see fit," Mr. Gordy said.
Other House Republicans who have signed the letter: Tom Tancredo, Scott McInnis and Bob Schaffer of Colorado; Jack Kingston, John Linder and Charlie Norwood of Georgia; Joseph R. Pitts of Pennsylvania; Cliff Stearns of Florida; Nick Smith of Michigan; Philip M. Crane of Illinois; Henry E. Brown Jr. and Jim DeMint of South Carolina; Wally Herger of California; Cass Ballenger of North Carolina; Todd Tiahrt of Kansas; Jim Gibbons of Nevada; Pete Sessions of Texas; and Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama.
Rep. James P. Moran Jr., Virginia Democrat who represents the area where the airport is located, said he is "disappointed" with some of his fellow House members who are standing behind Mr. Barr.
"I would understand how they would feel if the shoe were on the other foot and I insisted on an airport in their district being named after Jimmy Carter," Mr. Moran said.

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