Cameron Jones, Associated Press, February 26, 2021
The Virginia General Assembly has approved a bill renaming sections of U.S. Route 1 almost 100 years after it was named in honor of the first and only president of the Confederacy.
The bill, introduced by Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg, passed the House earlier this month with a 70-28 vote. The Senate passed the measure earlier this week with a 30-9 vote.
Counties and cities have until Jan. 1, 2022 to change their portion of Jefferson Davis Highway to whatever name they choose, or the state will change it to Emancipation Memorial Highway.
“Change the name on your own, or the General Assembly will change it for you,” Cole said to House committee members.
Sections of the highway that run through Stafford, Caroline, Spotsylvania and Chesterfield counties will need new signage and markers, according to the bill’s impact statement. Commemorative naming signs will be replaced, along with overhead guide signs at interchanges and street-name signs. The changes are estimated to cost almost $600,000 for all localities. The changes in Chesterfield will cost an estimated $373,000 because there are 17 Jefferson Davis Highway overhead signs on Routes 288 and 150.
“Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy, a constant reminder of a white nationalist experiment, and a racist Democrat,” Cole said. “Instead we can acknowledge the powerful act of the Emancipation Proclamation.”
A poll by Hampton University and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Virginians are still divided on changing the names of schools, streets and military bases named after Confederate leaders (44% supported the idea and 43% opposed it).