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Reagan statue landing at DCA amid financial turbulence

Thursday - 10/6/2011, 4:09pm  ET

reagan375.jpg
A rendering of the Ronald Reagan statue at Reagan National Airport. (Photo courtesy of Airports Authority)

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is locked in tight financial battles over the controversial Dulles Rail Project, is spending tens of thousands of dollars on a statue.

The statue is a 9-foot-tall statue of the country's 40th president, Ronald Reagan.

On Nov. 1, the statue will be unveiled at the entrance of Reagan National Airport. It will sit right between the A and B terminals.

While the Airports Authority isn't spending any money on the actual creation of the statue, it is forking over $80,000 to design the site and oversee site work for the statue. The actual statue is said to cost much more.

"The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation wanted to place a statue at DCA so they are bearing almost all of the cost," Airports Authority spokesperson Rob Yingling tells WTOP.

The Foundation will spend approximately $942,000 for the statue, says spokeswoman Melissa Giller.

"It's important to note that none of this money is through tax-payer dollars -- it was all raised through private donations," she told WTOP.

The fundraising campaign for the statue was led by former Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole.

The money will be spent on planning, the sculpture, landscaping, site development, transporting the statue and the dedication plaque.

Yingling says no airline fees are going toward the project, rather the money is coming from MWAA's annually approved budget.

"The $4.50 you pay on the airline ticket is not for this," Yingling says.

But, revenue generated by Dulles International and Reagan National airports through concessions, rent and parking does go back into a pool of money for capital projects, operation and maintenance.

"Part of our budget includes the reinvestment of left-over (we call it 'net remaining') revenue from the previous year. The $80,000 was approved in that budget in anticipation of this project," Yingling says.

MWAA says it has agreed to maintain the statue and the grounds after the statue is installed.

"Just as we do with the rest of the Airport," Yingling says.

The Authority says the money being used for the work on the statue is not connected to money that would be used for the Dulles Rail Project.

Earlier this year, the Airports Authority Board put on hold plans to build a new multi-million dollar board room, after the Washington Post reported the Authority was looking into that possibility.

Miller says the statue's artist, Chas Faga, also designed sculptures of Reagan that are in the Rotunda of the Capitol and in Grosvenor Square in London.

As far as the actual unveiling of the statue on November 1, it is being called an "invitation-only" event.

"We will have vehicle traffic restrictions in place for about an hour on that day," Yingling says.

So, as always, check ahead with your airline.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)