Arlington Co. votes to change name of Jefferson Davis Highway

Leaders in Virginia’s Arlington County voted late Thursday night to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway to either “Richmond Highway” or “Richmond Boulevard.”

The plan, approved by the Arlington County Board, now heads to state officials.

“We seek the authority of the Commonwealth Transportation Board to change the name,” said Christian Dorsey, chair of the county’s board.

The move follows an advisory opinion from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring who said last month that the county could go through the state’s transportation board if it wanted a name change. There had been questions about whether county officials needed approval from the Virginia General Assembly.

“It is my opinion that the Commonwealth Transportation Board may change the name of those portions of Jefferson Davis Highway located in Arlington County, provided that its board of supervisors adopts a resolution requesting the renaming,” the opinion said.

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In 1922, the General Assembly voted to name the road, also known as U.S. Route 1, in honor of the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.

“That was not a good time,” said Dorsey. “That’s not a good historical time for us to remember.”

If the Commonwealth Transportation Board goes along with the county’s plan, the name change would take effect in October.

A fervent supporter of the change, Del. Mark Levine, thanked the board Thursday night for taking action but said he did not want to wait that long.

“Why wait for October?” asked Levine. “I don’t think it takes that long to print signs. I’d like to see it done sooner.”

Some people want to keep the name as Jefferson Davis Highway. More than 600 people signed an online petition saying renaming the road would be “a slap in the face to U.S. soldiers as a whole and should not be permitted to happen.” However, more than 4,300 signed a petition supporting the name change.

The county estimates it will have to spend $17,000 to pay for new street signs if the board approves the change.

Last year, the section of Jefferson Davis Highway through the city of Alexandria was renamed Richmond Highway to match the name the road has always carried in Fairfax County.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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