- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2001

Metro, under renewed congressional pressure, is prepared to override one board member's opposition to correcting signs within the subway system that inaccurately refer to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Failure to change signs referring to the airport stop, a congressman warns, could cost the transit agency millions in federal funds.
"We'll seek some sort of board action," General Manager Richard A. White said yesterday. "I, as the manager, have no such authority to take any action. The action is to come from the board of directors itself."
Mr. White said he will ask the Metro board at an April 19 meeting to consider changing its signs more than three years after the act of Congress renaming National Airport for the 40th president took effect.
But board member Christopher E. Zimmerman, a Democrat who also sits on the Arlington County (Va.) Board, yesterday said he still doesn't want to change the signs.
"I don't support it," Mr. Zimmerman said of the airport name change honoring Mr. Reagan. "It's frivolous."
Mr. White's move to seek a board decision was prompted by a Georgia congressman's letter demanding that Metro use the formal name of the airport on signs or risk losing federal funding.
The letter from Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, first reported by The Washington Times yesterday, warned he would link "further and future funding to Metro" to the transit agency's progress on resolving the renaming matter.
"There is no reason whatsoever, other than petty, partisan politics, that they haven't already done this," Mr. Barr told The Times yesterday. "The problem is they are forcing us to deal with this. They have made this an issue. It's not going to go away."
Congress approved the new airport name in 1997, and the change took effect the following year on Feb. 6 Mr. Reagan's birthday.
Mr. Barr's letter, dated March 8 and received by Metro in the last couple of days, gives Mr. White two weeks to explain how he will "have its maps and signage reflect the lawful name of the airport."
The board member who would have made such a request to change the station's name is Mr. Zimmerman, and he has no intentions of making such a request.
Mr. Zimmerman said he's supported other jurisdiction's requests for name changes because they provided or clarified the station's location.
In previous comments to The Times, Mr. Zimmerman has said changing the name of the airport station wouldn't provide any more information and was a political issue driven by the media and fans of Mr. Reagan.
Mr. Zimmerman plays a key role because Metro policy since 1987 requires that renaming of a station be requested by the board member representing the station jurisdiction.
But Congress, which created Metro as a regional transportation authority in 1967, also has overview of the transit agency and can make similar requests.
Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said Mr. Barr's letter should help expedite the process. Until now, the agency had "never had a formal request in writing from a member of Congress … asking us to change the name," he said.
The Times reported in a series of stories in October that Metro had no plans to change the name of the station, which prompted an outcry from Congress.
Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, even sought $150,000 be put in an appropriations bill to pay for Metro to change its signage.
An amendment for the money and direction to Metro to change the signs never materialized, so Metro never made the changes, Mr. White said.
The estimated cost to change signs, maps and literature is about $400,000, Mr. White said. Money for the name change would likely come from Metro's year 2001 operating budget, since Arlington County didn't make the request, sources said.
Metro Board Chairman Decatur W. Trotter said he thinks the board now will move to approve the name change, especially with a member of Congress vowing to withhold federal money.
"It definitely was threatening, no question about that. We also know that the president [Bill Clinton] did sign the order," Mr. Trotter said. "We have made changes at other stations. We see no real reason why we shouldn't make a change on this one."
Most board members agreed with Mr. Trotter and said they would go along with the name change, although alternate board member and Fairfax County (Va.) Board of Supervisors Chairman Katherine K. Hanley thought the name would be too long for the black, vertical pylons at the station.
"Obviously we're going to do what we can to comply," said Mrs. Hanley, a Democrat.
Board member Jim Graham, a Democrat and a member of the D.C. Council, said he thinks the name should be changed.
"It's the Ronald Reagan airport. It's the station at the Ronald Reagan airport," Mr. Graham said.


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