On Tuesday, July 14 the Fredericksburg City Council will meet to decide on an action that could change the name of Route 1.
The City Council could vote to petition the Virginia General Assembly to remove the name of Jefferson Davis Highway from U.S. Route 1 statewide. This issue had been brought up at a June meeting of the council following protests in the city Fredericksburg in the wake of the police killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.
“We find ourselves in a time when our nation, our commonwealth, and our city are grappling with the realities of systemic racism and the failures of our institutions to realize the promises of the ideals on which they were built. The values of our systems and institutions are reflected in the symbols we choose, and the name of a major public thoroughfare is a powerful symbol. Confederate names have no place on American highways. The removal of the name Jefferson Davis from U.S. Route 1 is long overdue. U.S. Route 1 is a prominent statewide corridor, and renaming it is a project of statewide significance,” city documents state.
The Fredericksburg City Council is committed to changing the name of the portion of Route 1 that runs through its city limits, according to city documents. Should this petition pass, the city will present it to the Virginia General Assembly at their special session in August.
The city has not yet chosen and a replacement name for the four-lane highway.
While the members of the city council have shown support for this name change they have also kept in mind the effect the change would have on local businesses that are located along the highway.
“Even though we want to do this quickly, we have to make sure that we give the businesses time to do all the things they need to do,” Ward 2 Representative William Withers said at the June meeting.
Fredericksburg is the latest in a number of counties and localities taking action on renaming Route 1. On June 16 in Prince William County, Woodbridge District Supervisor Margaret Franklin called for renaming the portion of Route 1 that runs between Quantico and Occoquan.
Arlington County and the City of Alexandria had renamed the portions of Route 1 that run through their jurisdictions in 2019.
Most of U.S. Route 1 in Virginia is named for Jefferson Davis, who was president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865. Portions of the highway, including a half-mile section of the roadway in Falmouth, and the portion of the highway that runs through Fairfax County, is named Cambridge Street and Richmond Highway, respectively.