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D.C.'s Reagan Airport to reopen Thursday



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Declaring "it's time to start flying again," President Bush said Reagan Washington National Airport will reopen Thursday to air traffic.

"There really is no greater symbol that America's back in business than the reopening of this airport," Bush said Tuesday from an airport site overlooking the Washington Monument and capital skyline.

Bush said tighter security measures will be in place upon reopening of the airport, located near the Pentagon and about three miles from the White House and other key government buildings.

"We're doing the right thing. We've taken our time. We can assure the American public as best as we can that we've taken the necessary safety precautions," he said. "Now it's time to start flying again."

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The precautions are expected to include armed federal air marshals on every flight in and out of the airport and double screenings of passengers. Also, flight routes into and out of the airport are expected to be varied to keep planes farther from the district, and additional airspace would be off-limits to the airlines.

The reopening of the airport is expected to be gradual, possibly starting with Delta and U.S. Airways shuttle flights to New York and Boston, Massachusetts.

"It will come not a moment too soon," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a District of Columbia Democrat, told CNN earlier Tuesday. Norton joined Bush at the airport, along with Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and other members of Congress from Virginia and Maryland.

The airport employs more than 10,000 people and contributes billions of dollars in business revenue to the local economy, officials say. About 15.9 million passengers -- 42,000 a day -- used the airport in 2000.

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, applauded Bush's decision.

"Reagan National is a symbol for the whole country, and even though it is close to all these monuments and buildings, and we worry about that, I think the security can be resolved," he said.

-- CNN correspondents John King and Kathleen Koch contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 


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