- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2001

The House yesterday approved a $59 billion transportation funding bill that includes a provision that would force Metro to rename its National Airport subway stop to reflect the official name of the airport — Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

In a 426-1 vote, the House approved the transportation bill with the Reagan amendment but without the estimated $405,000 Metro says it needs to change the Blue and Yellow line station's name in its signs, maps and literature throughout the 103-mile subway system. Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, voted against the bill.

"This is more than just changing the name on a sign, it's about complying with the law of the land," House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, told The Washington Times.

As it reads now, the amendment — sponsored by Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Kansas Republican — 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."

Before the vote on the bill, Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, tried unsuccessfully to get the station-renaming amendment stripped from the bill. After about a half-hour debate, the House defeated Mr. Moran's procedural move along a nearly party-line vote of 219-208. Republican Reps. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia and Rep. Constance A. Morella of Maryland joined Democrats in voting for Mr. Moran's measure.

"I think that the most discouraging part of it is, is that **the amendment** is in complete contradiction with everything that Ronald Reagan stood for," Mr. Moran said. "It's embarrassing and almost insulting to his legacy."

Instead of "taking the heel of the federal government off the necks of local officials," as Mr. Reagan once said, Mr. Moran contends Congress is forcing an unfunded federal mandate upon a local authority that does not want to rename the airport station.

Congress approved the renaming of the airport four years ago, and President Clinton signed the measure into law. The granite signs in front of the airport were changed soon after the law went into effect on Feb. 6, 1998 — Mr. Reagan's 87th birthday.

Metro, however, did not make the change at the station or on pylons at the 29 other Blue and Yellow line stations, on maps inside its 764 rail cars, or on maps at its 83 stations.

Since the law went in effect, Metro has renamed seven other stations at a cost of $713,000, paid for by the localities in Virginia, Maryland, and the District that requested the change.

The Times reported in October that Metro had no plans to change the station's name, prompting Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican and now chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to look at offering a bill that would force the transit agency to make the change and provide $150,00 for the renaming. That bill was never offered.

In March, Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, wrote to Metro General Manager Richard A. White to ask the transit agency to rename the station. Mr. White then requested that Metro's board of directors take up the issue.

After Mr. Barr, Mr. Armey and 22 other House Republicans asked for the change, the board refused to discuss the issue at an April 19 meeting, effectively torpedoing the GOP members' desires.

Mr. Barr said in an interview that he can see Mr. Moran — who he says "hates that Ronald Reagan was president" — and others opposed to the renaming fighting in the Senate to stop the change.

"We are not home free yet," Mr. Barr said. "I'll be gratified once I see the signs that reflect the legal name of the airport."

House Republican aides yesterday said GOP members were frustrated that what should have been a cut-and-dried administrative action by Metro's board has turned into a political imbroglio that has angered members who have supported Metro in the past.

"We bend over backwards to help these folks," one aide said of Congress' efforts to get funding for Metro.

Last week, Mr. Tiahrt's amendment was approved on a voice vote by the House Appropriations Committee during a "markup" session on the funding bill, which allocates federal money for highway and transportation programs.

Mr. Tiahrt told The Times last week he did not put any penalties or a timeline in the legislation because he hopes Metro officials will understand that Congress' intent is for them to do it as soon as is feasibly possible.

Yesterday, Mr. Tiahrt said Metro "made this a political issue" and said he doesn't understand why it would want to risk more than $100 million in federal funding in the transportation bill over a name change.

Mr. Tiahrt said the renaming could be done when the new Red Line New York Avenue station opens in 2004, since Metro which was created by Congress in 1967 — would have to revamp all of its signage at that time anyway.

There may be a chance for Metro to get some of the money it says it needs during negotiations to iron out differences between the House and the Senate versions of the bill, Mr. Tiahrt said.

The amendment is tucked into an appropriations bill that Mr. Tiahrt and others expect will have no trouble when it crosses over into the Senate. Sources in the Senate have said "no one is going to fight" over the renaming, especially since Mr. Tiahrt sits on the Senate-House conference committee that will hash out differences between the two bills.

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