ARLINGTON, VA-The continued closure of Ronald Reagan National Airport has left a gaping wound in the region’s economy, which left unclosed, could prove fatal. Local political leaders rallied today at one of the three closed terminals at the airport to lobby the federal government and President George Bush to re-open the airport. Leaders at the press conference late Wednesday included Washington Mayor Anthony Williams, District delegate Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressman Jim Moran , R-VA, and Congresswoman Connie Morella, R-MD.

Williams told reporters National’s continued closing, “Sends a horrible signal about our nation’s capital, that we, a proud capital, a symbol of commerce a symbol of free exchange and assembly, that we in our nation’s capital are an open city, yet we’re closing our front door.” Certainly the impact of the closed door is more than symbolic, it’s economic.

Leaders said National Airport serves about 45,000 passengers a day, and over 10,000 people who worked for the airport authority, or with businesses within the airport property have been laid off. Moreover, Williams and others said the region loses $5 million a day for each day the airport remains closed.

The impact on the real estate community it two-fold. First, the hotel industry is suffering a major blow, and Mayor Williams is directly linking the airport’s closing to the problem. District officials said that occupancy rates at the District’s 100, plus hotels was a record 75% in 2000, but had been slashed in half since the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and New York’s World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Today, officials said some of the city’s hotels are experiencing occupancy rates as low as 17%.

The congressional representatives expressed optimism that the airport would eventually resume operations. “It’s safe to say that National Airport will open,” Congressman Moran told reporters. “The question not when, but under what circumstances.”

Situated on 733 acres of land, the airport’s A terminal was constructed in 1941. A massive $450 million construction project, the B and C terminals were designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates and Leo A. Daly Architects. It was completed in 1997, with 1 million sf, and 35 gates. Nearly 100 shops and restaurants are at National. According the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, National pumps about $2.4 billion into the region’s economy annually.

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