- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2001

A Republican congressman is backing off his threats to withhold federal funds from Metro if it does not immediately change all its subway signs and literature to reflect the official name of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Rep. Bob Barr told Metro General Manager Richard A. White the transit agency can change the station's name, along with maps and literature, in 2004 when its New York Avenue station will open on the Red Line.

But the Georgia Republican added that he still wants Metro to immediately change its signs at the airport station to match the airport's official name, which was changed in 1998 to honor the 40th president.

"Unless there is another name change before [the New York Avenue station opening], that would be the appropriate time to include the airport name change, which would minimize the cost to Metro," Mr. Barr said in a letter to Mr. White on Wednesday.

"The only immediate cost which would need to be borne by Metro is changing the signs located within the actual airport station," he said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.

Mr. Barr said Metro is flouting a law he sponsored that requires signs and literature to display the official name of the airport.

"I would hope Metro would want its maps and documentation to reflect the airport's name in the same manner as official United States documents," he added, noting that the Virginia Department of Transportation has changed its highway markers to reflect the airport's name change.

Arlington County Supervisor Christopher E. Zimmerman, a Democrat and Metro board member, said the signs on the highways are wrong because they say "Reagan National Airport," not the full name as Mr. Barr wants it.

Mr. Zimmerman, who has vowed to stop the name change, said Mr. Barr's own law says that any document saying "Washington National Airport" legally refers to "Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport."

Mr. Barr said that, regardless of the legality of the issue, it just makes "common sense" to change the name on the signs.

Mr. Zimmerman said he doesn't see how Mr. Barr is being flexible.

"It's not a compromise," he said yesterday. "It's not a simple matter of cost. My point is we all know it is the same airport."

Inside the Federal Triangle station on the Blue and Orange Line, a sign points to the entrance of the "Ronald Reagan Building," referring to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Mr. Zimmerman said that is a perfect example of a sign's name being altered to provide additional information. "That was a destination that did not exist [before]," he said.

President Clinton and Congress approved the airport's new name in 1997, and the change took effect the following year on Feb. 6 Mr. Reagan's birthday.

Metro estimates changing the signs only at the airport station would cost about $100,000. Updating stations on the Blue and Yellow lines, whose trains stop at Reagan National, would double that figure. Systemwide changes would cost about $400,000.

The Times first reported this month that Mr. Barr would stifle Metro funds if it did not immediately change the signs at all 83 subway stations, as well as maps and literature, to reflect the airport's name change.

Since the airport's renaming, Metro has completed name changes on seven other stations, spending more than $713,000 to change the wording on signs, pylons and kiosks inside the rechristened stations in the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Metro officials have said they cannot change the name by fiat, noting that the jurisdictions served by the transit authority must request a change and pay for it.

Congress, which created Metro as a regional transportation authority in 1967, has overview of the transit agency and can make similar requests. Metro receives federal funds via Congress' appropriation to the District as well as the from Department of Transportation.

Congress has not provided funds for the Reagan National name change, which would force Metro to use its operations budget to pay for the change.

The Times reported last week that Mr. Zimmerman and fellow Virginia Democrat Dana Kauffman, a Fairfax County supervisor and Metro board member, could issue a "jurisdictional veto" to nix the name change, even if the other four voting board members agree to it.

A "jurisdictional veto" occurs when two of the six voting Metro board members representing the same jurisdiction Virginia, Maryland or the District cast dissenting votes on an issue.

Of the six Metro board members who have a vote, those who have registered their support for the name change include D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat; Decatur W. Trotter, a Democrat representing Maryland; and Cleatus E. Barnett, a Republican representing Maryland.

Board Chairman Gladys W. Mack, a Democrat who represents Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, has not expressed an opinion.


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