Michael Foster is so fascinated by Metro trains that he knows how to identify different models of the cars. So it came as no surprise to his mother when he asked to kick off the weekend of his 16th birthday by going to the opening of the New York Avenue-Florida Avenue-Gallaudet University Station.
Foster, his mother and her fiance, his grandmother and his younger brother took a series of three buses from their home in Landover to the new station yesterday to be among the first riders to board a Red Line train there. "I knew he would want to ride the train," said Sharon Foster. "He's crazy about trains and Metro."
The junior at DuVal High School in Prince George's County, who said he dreamed about going to the station, was among the first Metro customers to come through the system's 84th station. "I'm excited, honored," he said.
He attended two other Metro grand openings and said: "I always want to go to the opening of Metro stations. I always dream of staying on the Metro all day long."
Foster is part of the future ridership of the area's transit system that politicians, transit authority leaders and community activists spoke of during a two-hour ceremony. More than 200 people gathered in a big white tent, the Dunbar High School band performed and guests and students from Perry School Community Services Center sang the national anthem.
The New York Avenue station is the first urban station built between two existing stations -- Rhode Island to the north and Union Station to the south, officials said.
The station is the first funded by a combination of federal, private and District dollars. It cost $103.7 million.
The District contributed $53.7 million, and nearby businesses and the federal government each chipped in $25 million, they said.
Speakers, who included representatives of the business community and the president of Gallaudet University, talked about how the station would transform the deteriorated community from an urban wasteland into a thriving business district.
"We're ending the transportation isolation of the neighborhoods in this part of Northeast Washington," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said. "This station is like the blossom of spring. . . . The New York Avenue gateway has finally arrived."
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) said the station was "a visible manifestation of what we can do when we come together in a meaningful way," referring to the business community, the District and federal governments and residents.
"This is really a journey into the future in terms of connecting neighborhoods to downtown, people to workplaces and pioneering ways to finance public transportation," Williams said after the ceremony.
Three sixth-graders at Walker-Jones Elementary School -- Tyree McGrier, DeAndre Long and Eric Hines -- asked the mayor for his autograph.
Hugh Panero, president of XM Satellite Radio, recalled that in the 1990s, when he toured the building that houses his nearby company's headquarters, bullets were on the roof and drug dealers were on the street corners.
Those days are practically gone. Now construction cranes hum during the day, and mounds of dirt from new projects are standard.
"I've seen the neighborhood change," said Carol Canada, who lives nearby and was one of the first riders to get off a train at the New York Avenue station. "I think it's good."