This story was updated around 6:10 p.m. on May 24, 2021, to include further comment from a WMATA official.
County Executive Marc Elrich has asked the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to change the name of the White Flint Metro station to “North Bethesda.”
Elrich sent the letter this month after community members, businesses and other stakeholders held a community meeting in late March, when they picked “North Bethesda” as a new name for the station.
The renaming is part of overall planning in the White Flint/North Bethesda area that began in 2010, Elrich wrote in the letter.
“Since that time, much has changed in North Bethesda including the former White Flint Mall which was dismantled between 2017 and 2020. A key goal for the community — both residential and business — is identity; and White Flint is no longer a relevant name or term used,” Elrich wrote in the letter.
The county executive thanked state delegates in District 16 and 18 for getting $250,000 for renaming rights. County officials will contribute $50,000. The remaining costs will be covered by nearby property and business owners.
A WMATA spokeswoman referred a reporter to policies regarding station name changes on the agency’s website. Sherri Ly, media relations manager for WMATA, wrote in an email that her agency was expecting the name change request from Montgomery County officials.
“Once the request for a name change is received, Metro will conduct customer research to gather public input on the proposed name. The information would then be provided to the Board [of Directors] to consider,” Ly wrote in an email.
Local elected officials and community advocates support the name change.
“The Metro station is crucial to the viability of this area and our community’s vision for it,” District 1 Council Member Andrew Friedson said in a prepared statement. “We need a Metro station that reflects that vision and helps our economic development, regional competitiveness, and placemaking efforts so the Pike District and North Bethesda becomes an even more vibrant, walkable, and livable destination.”
Amy Ginsburg, executive director of Friends of White Flint, said the name “North Bethesda” better represents the area near the corresponding Metro station.
“Friends of White Flint believes the name ‘North Bethesda’ honors the history of this remarkable neighborhood and heralds a spectacular future as a walkable, transit-oriented, vibrant community,” Ginsburg said in a prepared statement.
The WMATA Board of Directors has jurisdiction on name changes for Metro stations. It usually considers the following factors, per board policy:
- How much outreach local governments conducted within the local community
- Whether the name describes the local geography or other identifying feature
- Names should be distinctive and recognizable
- Station names should be 19 characters at most (including spaces and punctuation)
In two decisions in November, board members approved name changes in Prince George’s County and Fairfax County, Va., where local organizations and governments agreed to completely fund the name changes to two stations, which cost $332,000 each.
The “Tysons Corner” Metro station will be renamed “Tysons” and “Prince George’s Plaza” will become “Hyattsville Crossing” when the second phase of the Metro’s Silver Line opens, scheduled for July.
Friedson said in an interview Monday that the timing of the proposed name change to “North Bethesda” was important. By requesting it now, county officials and other parties could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars less, by combining it with the aforementioned station name changes, he said.
The name change is just one piece of economic development and future planning in the immediate area, Friedson said. But it’s an important one — and it’s a good sign that civic, state and local politicians are in agreement.
“I think it’s really significant, but I think it’s about more than just the money,” Friedson said about the funding sources. “There is overwhelming consensus that we should change the name. … I think the WMATA board will lean heavily on that [in its decision].”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org