- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

Congress is set to force the reopening of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport next week if the Bush administration does not provide a date to get it up and running, key local lawmakers said yesterday.
Rep. James P. Moran, a Virginia Democrat whose district includes the airport, said yesterday he will introduce legislation early next week if the federal government does not give a clear signal that the reopening is imminent.
Reagan Airport, which once served 45,000 people a day, is the only airport in the country still closed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"If we don't know anything by the beginning of next week, I'm going to move forward," Mr. Moran said. "I think it's safe to say that Reagan National will open, [but] the question is when and under what circumstances."
The legislation, he said, would come in the form of an amendment to an anti-terrorism bill set for debate next week and would "include the security measures we would be taking" to reopen the airport.
Mr. Moran said Congress would rather the administration open the airport and not do it by "legislative fiat," but he added: "There comes a time when the economy must be allowed to get back on its feet."
Mr. Moran's resolution, which he plans to propose Monday, seems to have broad support among lawmakers, congressional aides say.
Rep. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican, joined a regional coalition of leaders led by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams at a news conference in the abandoned C Terminal of the airport to call for the reopening.
Mrs. Morella said she also would like to see the Montgomery County Airpark reopened. The federal government shut down the small airport on Sept. 11 because it was within 25 miles of the no-fly zone around Washington imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration. That limit, she said, could be reduced to 18 miles to allow small planes to use the airport again.
Area congressmen have asked President Bush to help reopen Reagan Airport, whose closure has put as many as 70,000 restaurant and hotel jobs at risk and has cost an estimated $5 million in revenue a day.
Reagan Airport generates an estimated $5 billion a year in revenue for the region.
Mr. Moran said he has spoken with more than 100 House members since the attacks, and only five all Republicans are opposed to the reopening.
The Washington Times first reported last Thursday that administration officials told local members of Congress that they expected Reagan Airport to reopen but were waiting for two reports on airport and airline security before giving a firm date.
Those reports, ordered by Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, are due Monday.
Sources said shuttle flights would be the first to fly out of Reagan Airport when it reopens. Larger passenger planes would be allowed to depart and arrive once FAA officials feel security measures are adequate, they said.
Charter jets and general aviation operations may have to wait longer, sources said, because new security measures would not immediately affect them.
Mr. Williams, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, James A. Wilding, president of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and others met yesterday with White House staff to discuss reopening the airport.
Mrs. Norton said the White House staff, including Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Bolton, assured those present that they would establish a dialogue with the airports authority.
"No part of this region could be where it is today without this airport," Mrs. Norton said.
"Our front door is closed," Mr. Williams said.
Mr. Williams said hotel vacancy rates have fallen below 17 percent and at least 3,000 workers in the District's hospitality industry have been laid off because of declining business after the airport's closure.
Mr. Williams said keeping Reagan Airport closed would present the most striking example of a victory for the terrorists.
Mr. Wilding, of the airport authority, said he is frustrated because he "doesn't know more [about the airports reopening] than we knew three hours into" the closure on Sept. 11.
"I don't think there is a good reason to drag this on," Mr. Wilding said.

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