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Preserving an Architectural Icon

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is attempting to negotiate a solution to the fight that has broken out over the extension of the DC-area Metro to Dulles Airport. The airport authority wants an underground station that links directly to the terminal, but the additional cost strikes tax payers as exorbitant. They favor an above-ground terminus for the Metrorail.
If you have never been to Dulles, you may not be able to appreciate the concern the airport authority has to preserve the views of the main terminal building. It was designed by Eero Saarinen, who also designed the only other American airport terminal that is truly beautiful, the TWA terminal at JFK airport in New York City. I was at Dulles yesterday, and was reminded of just how striking a building it is.
Surely, there is a way to design an above-ground terminal that does not obstruct the view of Saarinen's masterpiece and that provides riders with an easy way to the airport terminal. Anything in the vicinity would be better than the highway approach to Dulles which, just yesterday, entailed a ten-mile back-up due to an accident on the Beltway.
Tax payers are right to be concerned that their dollars are well spent. In my hometown in Connecticut, we received a state grant to refurbish the old Grange Hall. It is a lovely building and it is well used. But, our little town already had a school with a large gymnasium, and two church halls. We really did not need a fourth hall to serve the needs of a community of 1,400 souls. But, because the state provided the money, people thought we were getting a deal. Alas, whether the money comes from the state or from the federal government, it all comes from tax revenues. In a time of fiscal difficulty, under-ground metro terminals and renovated Grange Halls may be a luxury we can't afford. On the other hand, preserving our architectural heritage is not a luxury, it is a cultural necessity. Here's hoping Secretary LaHood can find a solution that honors that heritage while saving the txpayers some bucks.

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October 10-23, 2014

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