« ForrigeFortsett »
With the traffic problems solved, and with the necessary structural changes made, the National Visitors Center will become a monument to this forward-thinking Congress.
I would like to add these final points in favor of the Union Station site:
1. Union Station is an already established landmark in Washington;
2. From an architectural standpoint, it is recognized as a magnificent structure;
3. It commands one of the most impressive views in the city by day and by night;
4. It would seem to provide an easy flow of traffic within the building;
5. It has good proximity to the major points of interest in Washington;
6. It has sufficient interior area to provide the necessary services to visitors;
7. It has good freeway accessibility;
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, we appreciate the opportunity to appear before you in support of H.R. 12603.
I again want to congratulate you on your forward-looking concept of this Visitor Center and appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today.
Mr. GRAY. Thank you, Mr. Arata. That was one of the most detailed and informative statements we have had in our hearings. It has special meaning since it comes from a representative of the Washington Convention and Visitors Bureau, who has been grappling with this problem for many years.
Let me ask you this: If the legislation that is proposed should become law and the National Park Service should take over the National Visitors Center, would it not still be feasible for the Washington Convention and Visitors Bureau to provide some of the literature which would speak directly for the people in Washington in such a Center?
In other words, we would hate to lose the service of this long-established group. Have you been handling this particular problem in Washington and do you foresee in this proposal, a place for the Washington Convention and Visitors Bureau?
Mr. ARATA. I certainly do, Mr. Chairman, and as a matter of fact, we are currently providing the National Park Service at their roadside information stands, of which they have several now, with the literature that is given to those people who stop by the roadside stands and inquire about points of interest in Washington.
Mr. GRAY. So you would not only expect to keep your interest but expand upon the work you have been doing and you conceive between the National Park Service running this and the Washington Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Mr. Ap.ATA. None whatsoever. As a matter of fact, again we collaborate pretty fully with the Park Service and as you perhaps know, supply many, many Members of Congress for their own use several types of literature to give to their constituents who visit their office here.
Mr. Gray. I am delighted to hear you say that because I certainly applaud the work you people have been doing with the meager means you have. You need a facility to gather all of these people together which your group, of course, has not had the responsibility to provide.
Mr. ARATĂ. I was interested in your statement before, Mr. Gray, about the tax returning directly to the District of Columbia from visitors' expense and the people in the District Building, the budget people, have given us information that just now our current $413 million, and it is that figure now, $413 million, are spent by tourists and convention delegates in this area, somewhere between $15 and $16 million now goes directly back to the District of Columbia in taxes.
Mr. GRAY. Fifteen to sixteen million?
Mr. GRAY. The round figures I used of $16 million were correct; $400 million and 4 percent tax which comes to about $16 million.
Mr. ARATA. Correct, sir.
Mr. Gray. And that tends to be substantiated by the budget people in the District of Columbia ?
Mr. ARATA. Just hotel room tax alone, which has now increased to 5 percent, the next fiscal year it is estimated to be about $2.5 or $3 million, the yield out of room tax which is, of course, basically largely made up of tourists and convention people.
Mr. GRAY. I am glad to hear that my guesstimate was that close.
Mr. SCHWENGEL. Mr. Arata, I am very glad to see you here. You, of course, know of my interest in what you have been doing and the work you have done for a long time. Eight years ago, this year, some of your people--maybe you were in that group—sat down and talked about it, the advisability, the feasibility, of a Visitors Center at that time. Your people helped me draft the original bill introduced for this.
Mr. ARATA. Yes.
Mr. SCHWFNGEL. For this I want to say thank you, and commend you. I want you to really know that you and your people have been doing some planning and work. Also, those of us in this area, especially Congress, and the executive department, ought to be grateful for you for the service you have offered, limited though it is, necessarily, to people who come here. I know of the hundreds of thousands of pieces of literature you send out to be provided and ask for questions, suggestions, and in this you have been of invaluable help.
Mr. ARATA. Thank you.
Mr. SCHWENGEL. You have made a very fine contribution. I was very interested in your statement here, too. I want to commend you about the literature, the thoughts, the ideas you expounded here and the vision you have demonstrated in your statement.
Mr. ARATA. Thank you.
Mr. SCHWENGEL. The 24-member committee have talked about many of the things you have touched on here, and if we have this Visitor Center finally, you, and your group can take some credit for the initiation and the fine cooperation. I am
glad to see you here and I hope you will continue your interest and I am sure you will.
And I hope, Mr. Chairman, when we have a Visitor Center, we can have a place where your group can be represented and extend your services to our Visitor Center, that will aid and abet the total program we have in mind for the people.
Mr. ARATA. Thank you.
Mr. SCHWENGEL. You have a very fine organization. You have been doing a great job.
Mr. GRAY. I want to associate myself with the remarks of the gentleman from Iowa, and that was the point I was making a moment ago. I hope you people will continue your great work and also expand upon it with the increasing number of visitors that are coming to Washington.
Mr. ARATA. We hope we can.
Without objection, I would like to submit for the record at this point, a statement from the Honorable Tom S. Kleppe, of North Dakota, in support of H.R. 12603, and a companion bill which he has introduced.
(The prepared statement of Hon. Tom S. Kleppe follows:)
STATEMENT OF HON. TOM S. KLEPPE
I am happy to lend my support to H.R. 12603 and related bills to establish a National Capital Visitors Center here in Washington, D.C. I have long been concerned with the growing congestion in the Metropolitan area, with the resulting inconvenience to both the residents of this city, and the millions of visitors that arrive every year at this mecca of America. I have looked forward with anticipation to the report of the commission that was set up to study the need for such a center, and am hopeful that the Congress will enact legislation making the plan a reality in the near future. To that end, I was pleased to introduce H.R. 12831 (which is similar to H.R. 12603), a bill to establish a National Capital Visitors Center to be located in the present Union Station.
As proposed, the National Capital Visitors Center would provide a better organized transportation system between the many historic sites in the area. It would also provide visitors with the ease and convenience of having at their disposal a focal point to plan their vacations in the Capital. Without some such focal point within the city, many visitors remember our Capital as a place where the monuments were too spread out; where ground transportation between points was insufficient; where what transportation there was, was congested and inconvenient; and where the parking and parking tickets were a problem. These problems will be minimized once the National Capital Visitors Center is in operation.
I have no doubt that once the National Capital Visitors Center becomes a reality, more visitors will come to Washington, their stay will be more enjoyable and probably extended, and they will leave with only a heightened impression of the Nation's Capital-both as a national historical center, and as a modern and organized city.
Mr. GRAY. Since that concludes our list of witnesses, I understand Mr. Owen would like to come back and sort of recap some of the testimony made by his association.
Mr. OWEN. If I may, very briefly.
SUMMATION BY THORNTON W. OWEN—Resumed
Mr. OWEN. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, in our testimony we have endeavored to give you as brief, yet as comprehensive a description of our project as possible. Needless to say, our studies into details have gone far further than this. In fact, we have a slide and taped presentation which we did not show in order to conserve your valuable time. The maps which we had prepared for this meeting were purposely designed to eliminate unnecessary details.
We are in the hopes that from our statements here we have been able to demonstrate how effectively and without duplication our project is the counterpart of the Visitor Center as contained in H.R. 12603. If we have, this will give us particular encouragement in our effort to modify the decision of the National Capital Planning Commission of October 13, 1966. At that time they advised us that their proposed 1985 comprehensive plan for Washington envisaged that the major transportation center, including interstate buses, be located in the immediate vicinity of the Union Station, and suggested we move the exposition and parking features south of H Street and west of Ninth Street.
Your Visitors' Center, as contained in H.R. 12603, does not envisage any unified transportation center at the Union Center. Moreover in the area they suggest, we would cause serious traffic congestion and no solution would be found for the interstate bus companies, or for any
suburban terminal. The center leg is under construction and land has been acquired at least to Massachusetts Avenue. The use of the arterial freeway is an integral part of our plan.
Under these circumstances if your committee agrees with us that our project will be of benefit to Washington, we are prepared to return to the National Capital Planning Commission requesting a new hearing
We are now prepared to answer the questions which we hope our presentation has aroused sufficient interest on your part for you to ask.
In line with what you mentioned earlier, Mr. Chairman, with regard to taxes, I might point out in our prepared statement we have estimated the increased real estate taxes from this project, over and above our current produced by the existing improvements in the area, would amount to $3.5 million per year, based upon the present basis of assessments and taxation.
Mr. Gray. Even if you took off the tax base, some of the so-called substandard homes and business places in this area, the new construction and new investment would
Mr. OWEN. This would be in addition to what is now produced.
Mr. Owen. Not inclusive of any sales taxes, payroll taxes, and things of that type, employment taxes.
Mr. GRAY. Of course, this committee would not be in the position of supporting the plan without public hearings, and some expression of interest by the individual members. I will address your recommendation to the National Capital Planning Commission, and ask that
they complete their studies as soon as possible, those studies that were ordered by the President in February of this year, so they could come to some resolution as to whether or not they felt they wanted to recommend that this be done at Union Station or whether they want to leave it up to private enterprise—which I personally favor. By them coming to some resolution, would expedite your consideration, at least let you know where you are.
Because as I understand, you are pretty much in the dark now as to what the city planners want to do about proceeding with your private plan.
Mr. OWEN. As you know, most planners, if it is not their idea, it isn't any good. You may or may not know the Federal Aviation Agency was considering an airport terminal in downtown, which incidentally, would have been diagonally opposite where we planned. But, however, they would go in the residential area, meaning moving housing and we talked with their general counsel and they are perfectly willing to work with us and create an airport terminal here as well as on top of the building. And they also did this with Dulles and Friendship
Mr. Gray. You are referring to the ticket offices, are you not, the gathering portion?
Mr. OWEN. Ticket office as well as the gathering of the passengers to go to and from the terminal. It will go eventualy through the Federal system, by short connection and use of Washington Railroad tracks, they can get into Dulles and another connection from Pennsylvania Railroad, a short connection into Friendship, and eventually through the subway system as planned, the rapid transit, will go into National. There will be an interchange between the bus people, the cars and air transport.
Mr. Gray. Right. We are figuring on advocating a heliport on top of Union Station for the airlifting of people who want to travel by air, but as you know, only about 17 percent of the people who travel go by air, so I don't think this would be in competition at all with the buslines and surface transportation, but one would complement the other and provide a more rounded service. So I don't think we would get into conflict.
Thank you very much, Mr. Owen. You and your group have been very helpful and we thank you very much for the great enlightenment you have brought to this subject and for your support we are indeed grateful.
Mr. Owen. We appreciate an opportunity to appear. (Extended remarks follow:)
EXTENDED REMARKS TO STATEMENT OF THORNTON W. OWEN I greatly appreciate the courtesy of the subcommittee in their unanimous consent to allow me, and the officers of the other civic groups that accompanied me, to extend their remarks.
In accordance with the sage comments of the Hon. Fred Schwengel at the meeting on September 13, 1967, I wish to emphasize that the Exposition and Transportation Center we propose is, like the Visitors Center, for the nation as a whole rather than primarily for the benefit of the citizen of the Metropolitan Washington area.
The permanent industrial exposition will be national, the terminals and the parking areas serve the visitors to Washington. That we have been able to in