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Maryland Considers Renaming BWI for Thurgood Marshall

By David Snyder
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 2, 2005; Page B01

Weighing in at six words, 55 letters and a tongue-twisting 17 syllables, the proposed new name for BWI Airport, everyone seems to agree, is an orthographical behemoth.

Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport -- the name proposed in legislation making its way through the Maryland General Assembly -- would, few dispute, appropriately honor one of Maryland's most revered sons. But would anyone actually use the full name? And would it fit on signs? Would BWI become TMBWI?

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These are a few of the questions that have attached themselves to House Bill 189, which would change the airport's name for the first time since 1973, when Friendship International Airport became BWI.

The name change, which received unanimous support in committee, is set for a vote today in the House of Delegates. It comes amid a spate of similar changes at airports across the country, including the 1998 vote in Congress that added Ronald Reagan's name to Washington National Airport.

Sign painters and stationery companies might rejoice. But for state agencies and private companies that do business near the airport, name changes can be a cumbersome and expensive affair.

The change would cost the state at least $2.1 million, according to preliminary estimates.

Among the list of things that would need to be replaced or significantly altered: business cards, uniforms, road signs, pamphlets, marketing materials, stationery and insignia on shuttle buses.

It is a cost well worth it to honor Marshall, the late Supreme Court justice and civil rights icon who was born in Baltimore in 1908, said Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D-Baltimore County), the bill's sponsor. "Maryland has a treasure, and only Maryland can recognize that treasure," he said.

If passed by the House, the measure would need to be approved by the Senate and then signed by the governor before road signs and shuttle buses would be changed.

Shareese DeLeaver, spokeswoman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), said the governor is "open to the idea."

For businesses that have BWI in their names, the change could be a problem, some said.

"I think it's worthy and appropriate to somehow change the name to recognize a prominent Maryland individual," said Beth Berry, director of sales at BWI Airport Marriott. She added, however, "I think they need to give some thought as to how to do it."

Of Thurgood Marshall Baltimore Washington International Airport, Berry said: "That's a pretty good mouthful."

Burns said he took pains to retain Baltimore and Washington in the name so that the airport would continue to be associated with the area. The airport's location codes with the Federal Aviation Administration also would remain the same, so no federal approval of the change would be needed, he said.

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