Written By: Prince William County
Upwards of 60 signs at intersections along U.S. 1 naming the road Jefferson Davis Highway will be changed in coming months to rename the road Richmond Highway in Prince William County.
Members of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, other dignitaries and county residents recently gathered in the parking lot at River Oaks Shopping Center for a renaming ceremony.
“This road, any road, should never be named Jefferson Davis Highway,” Prince William County Chair At-Large Ann Wheeler told the crowd of nearly 100 at the Saturday ceremony. “I’m so grateful that after many, many years of having Jefferson Davis Highway, we now have Richmond Highway in Prince William County and it’s a new beginning.”
Prince William County Woodbridge District Supervisor Margaret Angela Franklin said the name was offensive to many and the change was overdue. “Names make a difference. From Jefferson Davis Highway to Richmond Highway, we have finally come into the 21st century and removed the stain of the past. Removing Jefferson Davis’ name as the main road in this community was a personal goal of mine and I greatly appreciate the support and collective action of the board of supervisors. It has been through the collective hard work of this board, county leadership and the community that we are here to celebrate this milestone.”
The board voted unanimously, in September 2020, to change the name of the road. In November the Commonwealth Transportation Board authorized the name change and work began to raise awareness about the renaming with community outreach that included town hall-style meetings, mailings and a dedicated website. The board also allocated $3 million to help businesses along the corridor with costs of modifications for staffing, consulting services, marketing, signage and updating legal paperwork.
“For those residents and business owners that are affected by this change, know that we are committed to minimizing the impact as much as possible,” said Prince William County Neabsco District Supervisor Victor Angry. “We encourage you to apply for grant funding and to keep community conversations going as we continue this transition.”
Virginia Delegate Luke Torian thanked and congratulated the board on the name change. “I believe that the actions that the county board has taken is consistent with the actions that we have taken in the Virginia General Assembly as we have removed monuments and statues that have been a blight on our state and our communities. Now I really have no problem driving down Richmond Highway, not a problem at all.”
Prince William County Occoquan District Supervisor Kenny A. Boddye said the event was important.“This is a big moment in our county’s history. No longer will we be commemorating folks that literally fought for the right to own other people as property. Today, we come into our own as a county and realize that when we continue forward, we have to acknowledge what has happened in the past and we have to move beyond it to be sure that we’re doing what’s right for everyone in our community.”
According to Virginia Department of Transportation policy, responsibility to change the signs falls to the county since the board initiated the renaming. All Jefferson Davis Highway signs are scheduled to be removed and replaced with Richmond Highway signs by late summer or early fall.