County board votes to rename Jefferson Davis Highway, must be approved by another board


Arlington County has followed the City of Alexandria’s lead in renaming the 2.6 mile-long portion of Jefferson Davis Highway that runs through the county.

Thursday night, the county board voted unanimously to rename the roadway, also known as Route 1, to Richmond Highway. In a press release, the county says the new name will make driving on Route 1 less confusing, and it won’t be expensive. The county estimates it will cost about $17,000.

If the resolution is approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the name change will take effect no later than October 1, 2019.

In 2012, the Virginia General Assembly changed a 1922 statute that prohibited the CTB from renaming highways, bridges, or interchanges named by the General Assembly, and permitted such changes.

Prior to the April 25 public hearing, the county mailed postcards to residences, property owners, and businesses along the portion of the highway in Arlington, informing them of the impending decision.

Chair Christian Dorsey says support from nearby businesses for the name change was overwhelming. “We’ve heard stories from hotels where business has been turned down because once prospective conventioners found out it was on Jefferson Davis Highway, they were turned off by that,” said Dorsey.

Last June, the City of Alexandria renamed the stretch of Route 1 in its jursidiction. “What we decided to do was to work with our good neighbor and say, ‘Can we participate in your process?’ because what we’d ultimately like to do is to do the same thing that you do,” said Dorsey. “Since our roads are contiguous and they connect, we want to make it as easy as possible for people who are traversing it to know exactly where they are.” 

Unlike Arlington County, the city didn’t need approval from the CTB.

Dorsey also says the name change came down to two factors: making travel between Alexandria and Arlington “less confusing” and more fluid, and take the chance to honor or recognize Virginia. Jefferson Davis was from Mississippi with deep roots in Alabama. 

“When you think about our public right of way, our public spaces, those are reserved for people who made significant contributes to the United States or to Virginia, and Jefferson Davis doesn’t meet either of those criteria,” said Dorsey.

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