Though they have cropped up with increasing regularity both locally and nationally in recent years, conversations about how to handle symbolic reminders of the Confederacy remain as emotionally charged as ever.
That was evident in the most recent meeting of Fairfax County’s Confederate Names Task Force, which has been charged with determining whether the county should rename Lee and Lee-Jackson Memorial highways.
“We have a nice taste of different people from different parts of Fairfax that want to weigh in,” task force chair Evelyn Spain said. “We value all of their opinions on whether this end result comes to change the name or not change the name of Fairfax streets.”
The two-hour meeting at the Fairfax County Government Center on Monday (Oct. 18) followed the launch of a community survey last week. Postcards advertising the survey are expected to roll out to residents across the county starting this weekend.
Also accepting public comments by email, phone, mail, and at four upcoming listening sessions, the task force will use the input to inform its recommendation to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
“I don’t want people to be back here in 30 years because we made a wrong decision,” one member said.
The Financial Cost of Changing the Names
Changing the names of both highways could cost Fairfax County anywhere from $1 million to $4 million, Fairfax County Department of Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny told the task force.
According to FCDOT, there are 171 Lee Highway signs along the county’s 14.1-mile stretch of Route 29 and 55 Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway signs on 8.4 miles of Route 50.
The cost varies depending on each kind of sign, particularly ones on traffic light mast arms or other overhead structures. If a new street name is longer than the existing one, replacing the signs will require more work due to the added weight, Biesiadny explained.
“What we’re going to replace it with does matter,” he said.
Biesiadny also reported that, based on estimates from neighboring localities that have adopted new highway names, a name change would cost businesses about $500 each to update their address on signs, stationary, and legal documents, among other possible expenses.
Other jurisdictions are looking at providing grants to cover businesses’ costs, according to Biesiadny, who noted that the county would need to conduct a survey of businesses to get a more precise estimate.
What’s in a (Street) Name?
For the task force, however, the question of whether to rename the highways hinges less on money than on what the names say about a community’s values and identity.
In a facilitator-led discussion on street name criteria, several members cited inclusivity and reflecting Fairfax County’s increasingly diverse population as key concerns.
“There’s no reason that we need to keep telling these same limited truths,” Bunyan Bryant from Mason District said. “…We’re not bound forever and ever to that. Yes, there is this history some are wedded to, but that doesn’t represent us today.”
Some task force members said tying street names to history helps create a sense of place, even if that history is less-than-inspiring.
Ed Wenzel, one of four Springfield District representatives, noted that Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway was used by troops during the Civil War, which he said “had a tremendous impact” on Fairfax County.
“Gallows Road is grisly history, but I don’t think anyone would ask to change that name,” Braddock District member Robert Floyd said, citing the common but unproven impression that the street running from Tysons to Annandale once led to a gallows or hanging tree.
Others argued that Fairfax County has overly fixated on the Civil War at the expense of other people and events from its past, noting that the county has many historical sites commemorating that era, such as Ox Hill Battlefield Park.
“Remembering and learning about history is different from glorifying history,” said Dranesville District member Barbara Glakas, a member of the Herndon Historical Society. “I think we need to look at who we’ve been glorifying.”
Should the task force recommend changing the names in its report to the county board in December, a couple of members suggested eschewing people as namesakes, given the potential for controversy.
When asked, Biesiadny confirmed that simply calling the highways Route 29 and Route 50 is an option, pointing to Chesterfield County as an example.
In that case, the local board of supervisors approved Route 1 as the name for its segment of Jefferson Davis Highway in June, seemingly to avoid the moniker defaulting to Emancipation Highway as mandated by the Virginia General Assembly.
Good Tuesday evening! Today we published 8 articles that were read a total of 7245 times on FFXnow alone, so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles…
Richmond Highway (Route 1) has been closed off to traffic in the Hybla Valley area for over eight hours now due to a woman who has barricaded herself in a…
Fairfax County fared well overall in recently released rankings of the best places to live in America, but it couldn’t quite compete with neighboring Loudoun County. Fairfax County was named…
Redevelopment proposals in the Merrifield area will likely get high-priority consideration by Fairfax County planners, as the county nears the finish line of its reconfigured site-specific plan amendment (SSPA) process….
Synetic Theater Camps are a wildly fun, highly accessible choice for young people who love moving, playing games, and making memories. Registration is open now for Summer Camps (sessions June 20-August 25) and there are even a few spots left for Spring Break camp, April 3-7.
Located in National Landing, these performance-based camps are designed for students of all ages – no theater or performance experience required.
Led by professional teaching artists, campers learn acting, movement, and technical theater skills through the lens of Physical Theater. Physical Theater incorporates acting, movement, dance, mime, and acrobatics. If you’ve seen a Cirque du Soleil performance, you’ll find many similarities.
EDBS Dental Billing Solutions is pleased to announce that it has achieved compliance with the federally mandated standards of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) through the use of Compliancy Group’s proprietary HIPAA methodology, The Guard® compliance tracking software, and HIPAA Seal of Compliance®.
The HIPAA Seal of Compliance is issued to organizations that have implemented an effective HIPAA compliance program through the use of The Guard, Compliancy Group’s proprietary compliance tracking solution.
Clients and patients are becoming more aware of the requirements of HIPAA compliance and how the regulation protects their personal information. Forward-thinking providers like EDBS Dental Billing Solutions choose the HIPAA Seal of Compliance to differentiate their services.
McLean Volunteer Fire Department-Inova Blood Drive
MVFD has teamed up with Inova Blood Donor Services for a blood drive on Friday, March 31, in our lower parking lot at 1455 Laughlin Avenue. The blood drive will run from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 pm. Please consider making
Van Metre 5K Run
Calling all serious runners, occasional joggers, and weekend walkers of all levels! Participate in the 31st Annual Van Metre 5K Run supporting Children’s National Hospital–the event that goes a long way!
Date: Saturday, April 29, 2023