Sen. Paul S. Trible (R-Va.), who met briefly yesterday with Mayor Marion Barry, said afterward that he will push a plan to put a heliport at Union Station with service to surrounding metropolitan airports.
The freshman senator, who is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said installation of a heliport would transform Union Station into a "transportation hub" and encourage the use of the underutilized Dulles and Baltimore-Washington International airports.
"This is an idea that ought to be pursued on the Hill," Trible said outside the mayor's District Building offices.
Barry said he had some reservations about the noise and potential safety hazards that would be caused by helicopters taking off and landing on Capitol Hill, but nonetheless promised to keep an open mind.
"Safety and noise would be a concern, but we want to make sure airports other than National Airport will be fully utilized," Barry said.
Trible said he will ask his aviation subcommittee to hold hearings on the proposal, which calls for installing four or five helicopter landing pads atop the colossal train station's parking garage and offering service costing $30 to $40 from the station to Dulles and BWI.
The plan already has stirred up a controversy within the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is responsible for overseeing the planned $70 million renovation of Union Station.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an agency of the Transportation Department, eagerly supports the proposal, viewing it as a prototype to encourage other cities to inaugurate helicopter service in their downtown areas. Only a few cities, including New York and Houston, currently offer such service.
However, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), another Transportation Department agency, opposes the plan, arguing that the heliport would use up 45 to 50 parking spaces in the garage that otherwise would generate revenue to help cover the train station's operating costs.
Trible said yesterday that Congress probably would have to resolve the dispute and decide whether to go ahead with the plan.
Trible, a former congressman who was elected to the Senate last November, described his half-hour meeting with Barry yesterday as a courtesy call "to build good relationships."
The senator and the mayor spent part of their meeting discussing Metro--a topic that dominated Barry's first full-blown cabinet meeting of the year last Friday. Trible said he is a "staunch supporter" of efforts to complete construction of all 101 miles of the subway system.