Playing the name game

By the

March 22, 2001

$400,000 is a lot of money. $400,000 could provide a lot in the way of transportation improvements for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority. $400,000 is also the amount of money that Republic Representative Robert L. Barr, Jr. (Ga.) wants Metro to spend renaming the “National Airport” station to “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport” station. Doing so also “honors” the former president?he would no doubt be impressed by a Metro stop bearing his name.

But regardless of one’s opinion of Ronald Reagan as president and of the merits of naming D.C.’s airport after him, Barr’s proposal makes little sense. If changing the station’s name made it easier for tourists and visitors to find the airport, he would be on more solid ground with his proposal. In actuality, however, Barr is simply riding on a power trip in the game of politics.

Barr has not only demanded that Metro make the change, but he has also threatened to hold up millions of dollars in funding for Metro if the agency does not comply. This would mean important projects for commuters?the people who live and work in and around the District permanently, not Congressmen whose time here is limited by the whims of their constituents?could be delayed or lost altogether. These projects include miles of track to the Dulles Corridor in Virginia and to Largo Town Center in Maryland, as well as several stations, including one at New York Avenue on the Red Line and an addition to the Mt. Vernon Square station allowing access to the Washington Convention Center.

Congress needs to let Metro be what its name says it is: a regional transportation authority. Metro is not a political tool. Metro is not tourist guide. It exists to get Washingtonians and visitors from Point A to Point B as quickly and easily as possible, not to waste time caring about who thinks Point B should be named Point C. Barr should spend his time tackling more important issues and working to solve the problems that affect all citizens of the country, not just the ones who used to be president.

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