Stafford County wants to name its portion of Route 1 after a fallen hero.
Jessica J. Cheney gave her life in the service of Virginians. At 23, only two years after becoming Virginia State Police Trooper, a car collided with Cheney at a work zone on Route 1 at the Stafford Courthouse on January 17, 1998
Cheney was directing traffic when it happened. She was taken to a local hospital, where she died.
“My sister gave her life on that stretch of Route 1,” said Romaine Cheney, the late trooper’s only sister, who can’t wait to see her sister’s name on the highway. “Our whole family loves this idea. We consider it an honor.”
Serving Virginians was something that ran in her family. Jessica grew up in King William County, about an hour southeast of Fredericksburg, and was an EMT in both Spotsylvania and Hanover counties.
After her mother got a job working as a dispatcher for the Virginia State Police in 1988, Jessica knew she, too, wanted to work for the state’s most prominent law enforcement agency. She was assigned to work in the Fredericksburg region.
Supervisors will take up the resolution to rename the highway at its Tuesday, March 16 meeting.
“I was in middle school at Stafford Middle when Jessica gave her life in the line of duty,” said Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chair Crystal Vanuch. “This is something I have been working on for several months, and there is nothing more fitting than to sponsor this resolution during women’s history month for a woman killed in the line of duty at the age of 23, 23 years ago this year.”
The resolution comes as a Delegate Josh Cole (D-28, Fredericksburg, Stafford), pushed a bill into law this year, ordering localities across the state to remove from the highway the name of Jefferson Davis–the president of the Confederacy, whose name has been on the road since 1922.
The bill allows localities to choose a name and then petition the Commonwealth Transportation Board in Richmond for permission to use that name. If it didn’t come up with a name on its own, the street would be automatically renamed Emanacipaton Highway at the localities’ expense.
Last month, a spokesman for Cole said the lawmaker wanted to rename the street Loving Memorial Highway for Richard and Mildred Loving of Caroline County. The couple was at the center of a 1967 civil rights case that deemed it unconstitutional for Virginia to ban interracial marriages.
However, a surviving member of the Loving family objected.
The name change won’t be cheap and could cost as much as $1.2 million. New road signs are needed, and businesses on the roadway must change their addresses and marketing materials.
Stafford hopes to shift the cost to the Virginia Department of Transportation by asking Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Gary T. Settle to sign off on the request. If the request from a state agency, the state must pay, we’re told.
“An honor of this significance is so fitting for a young woman and trooper who consistently went above and beyond to serve the Commonwealth and Stafford County,” Settle told Potomac Local News. “The department looks forward to working with Stafford County, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Commonwealth Transportation Board to make this a reality for Jessica and her family.”
Last December, county leaders mulled renaming Route 1 Richmond Highway to match localities to the north, such as Fairfax, which renamed its portion of the road to Richmond Highway in the 1970s, and Prince William, which is working on rebranding the road to the same name later this year.
Route 1 traverses 200 miles of land in Virginia, stretching between North Carolina and Washington, D.C. A portion of Route 1 that runs through the Falmouth area of Stafford County, named Cambridge Street, would be unchanged.
A bridge that carries traffic on Garrisonville Road over Interstate 95 is also named for Cheney.