- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2001

U.S. Rep. Don Young and other House Republicans said they are committed to forcing Metro to rename the subway station at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport but are waiting to file a bill in early summer, when other appropriations are addressed.

"This is something that he just feels needs to be done," said Amy Inaba, spokeswoman for Mr. Young, Alaska Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "He still considers it something he definitely wants to get done. (A bill) will definitely get filed."

Steve Hansen, spokesman for the committee Mr. Young heads, said it could be late this month or early next month when a bill mandating that Metro, which was created by Congress in 1967, rename the Blue and Yellow lines' National Airport Station to reflect the official name of the airport.

"Staff is still working on it; it´s just a matter that there are other more pressing transportation matters," Mr. Hansen said.

A senior Republican congressional aide said waiting until next month or even July to file a bill is smart because that is when the appropriations process is in full swing. "It´s totally on time, and it´s within the realm of how we appropriate in the House," the aide said.

Congressional sources say the bill that will be filed is almost identical to one Mr. Young almost introduced last fall after The Washington Times reported Metro had no intention of renaming the airport station. That measure would have included $150,000 for the change and required Metro to change not only the signs at the station but also all maps, literature and other signs through its subway system.

Metro officials have said the changes, if completed in their entirety, would cost about $400,000.

One Capitol Hill source, however, said the legislation would require Metro only to change signs at the airport station and print new literature, maps and other signs when the Red Line New York Avenue station opens in 2004.

Another congressional source said Mr. Young will not link Metro funding to any legislation requiring the name change.

Ms. Inaba said no one — including Virginia Reps. James P. Moran, a Democrat, or Thomas M. Davis III, a Republican — has approached Mr. Young about the matter. "He said no one has talked to him on the floor," she said.

Mr. Davis and other area lawmakers have said they will ensure Metro funding is not harmed. Mr. Davis said he would fight "tooth and nail" so that federal dollars, which amounted to $189 million or 10 percent of Metro´s budget this year, are not cut or withheld.

Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, also is pursuing efforts to have the airport station renamed, said spokesman Brian J. Walsh.

"Congressman Barr remains firmly committed to ensuring the station name at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport accurately reflects the lawful name of the airport," Mr. Walsh said. "He appreciates the support of Chairman Young and other members of Congress, and looks forward to resolving this issue in a fair and expeditious manner."

The Times first reported in March that Mr. Barr had sent a letter to Metro General Manager Richard A. White requesting the airport station´s name be changed. Last month, 23 other House Republicans signed onto that letter.

The transit agency´s board last month turned down the request.

One of those Republicans supporting the name change is House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas. A spokesman said yesterday he is fully behind Mr. Young and Mr. Barr. "Absolutely," said Mr. Armey´s spokesman. "The bottom line is we just want the name changed."

Congress passed a law in 1997 to rename the airport in honor of Mr. Reagan. The change took place on Feb. 6. 1998 — the 40th president´s birthday.

The debate over the name change has drawn national interest. Some Hill sources said Mr. Young and other House Republicans are uncomfortable with the spotlight on the issue because it detracts from GOP efforts to cut taxes, reform Social Security and build up the nation´s military.

After conservative columnist George F. Will published a essay lambasting those who insisted on putting Mr. Reagan´s name on everything — including the subway stop´s sign — some House Republicans began to question why they were pushing so hard, Hill sources said.

"Those ardent to add Reagan´s name to that sign say they are not — Heaven forfend! — scoring ideological points," Mr. Will wrote in an April 26 article. "They are practicing compassionate conservatism.

"They´ll tell of confused travelers who, because Reagan´s name is not on the sign, have not realized that the airport is that big structure adjacent to the above-ground Metro station," Mr. Will wrote. "Please."

Mr. Hansen denied Mr. Young felt any pressure or hand-wringing over filing a bill because of what has been written. "He doesn´t put much stock in what they say," he said of Mr. Young´s response to critics.


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