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Businesses on Lee and Lee-Jackson Memorial Hwys prefer numbered names, survey shows

A photo of a street sign on Lee Highway (file photo)
A photo of a street sign on Lee Highway (file photo)

If it were up to a majority of local business and property owners, the Fairfax County portions of Routes 29 and 50 would simply adopt those numbers as their official names.

County staff revealed yesterday (Tuesday) the results of a survey asking business and property owners located on Lee Highway (Route 29) and Lee-Jackson Memorial highways (Route 50) what their preference for new names would be.

The survey provided five options for each road, but in each instance, the original route number won out, staff said at the Board of Supervisors transportation committee meeting.

For Lee Highway, about 55% of the 86 respondents chose Route/Highway 29 as the preferred new name. For Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway, more than 60% of the 62 respondents chose Route 50.

Several board members agreed that, in terms of efficiency and continuity, reverting back to the road number is probably the best route.

“Frankly, I’m not surprised by the responses to the name changes, if we were to move forward with those,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay said, adding later that “in terms of implications on businesses and people who live along these corridors…that would be the least intrusive and, frankly, easiest for drivers and commuters.”

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik suggested the board consider aligning the roads’ names with neighboring jurisdictions to prevent further confusion among those driving in the region.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity asked whether the survey included a question about if the businesses and property owners wanted name changes at all. Staff said it didn’t due to a previous task force determination that the names should be changed.

The ongoing process of changing the names of the two major thoroughfares in the county began in 2020 when the Fairfax County History Commission unveiled a report that showed about 150 public sites in the county were named after Confederate figures or symbols.

Then, a task force was appointed specifically to review renaming Lee Highway and Lee-Jackson Memorial. That group recommended late last year to rename the two roads, and earlier this year, alternate names were recommended to the Board of Supervisors.

​​Outreach to businesses and property owners along these corridors was the next step.

Now, the Board of Supervisors needs to approve new names, commit to the costs associated with the changes, and submit a request to the Commonwealth Transportation Board. At this time, it’s unclear when all of that might happen.

The survey also inquired that if the name changes would result in any financial expenses for the businesses. For both highways, more than 70% of respondents answered yes, citing potential expenses related to legal documents, signage, and marketing.

In response, the committee discussed ways to help or reimburse businesses on these expenditures when the name changes do happen including a grant system and a reimbursement program.

Regardless of the final names, the county is responsible for paying the cost of updating signage and way-marking. The staff determined the overall cost could range from $1 million to $4.2 million.

The price will depend on which names are selected, with the cost increasing for longer names.

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