The renaming of Jefferson Davis Highway in Alexandria, ordered eight months ago by the
City Council, inched forward last week with the appointment of an advisory group to consider new names.
Having the name of the president of the Confederacy on the highway, also known as U.S. Route 1, has long aggravated residents of this liberal historic city.
Renaming it came up most recently about two years ago, when the city began discussing whether to remove the statue of a Confederate soldier that stands in the middle of another major thoroughfare a few blocks east.
The City Council concluded that it could not move the privately owned statue under current state law, and local legislators warned that efforts to change the law would be doomed. But they did unanimously agree to change the highway’s name.
City Manager Mark Jinks, in a news release issued late Friday, announced the appointment of an ad hoc panel to “solicit public feedback and consider potential new names” for Alexandria’s portion of the highway.
The road is called Jefferson Davis Highway from the time it crosses the Potomac River via the 14th Street Bridge into Arlington County, through Alexandria’s redeveloped Potomac Yard neighborhood.
The road splits south of an elevated bridge, and the two sections are called Patrick and Henry streets. After it crosses into Fairfax County, the name changes to Richmond Highway.
The advisory group will begin meeting in June and will conduct a survey over the summer seeking suggestions for a new name. Unusually for Alexandria, two of the four panel members will be from Arlington County, although the county has not formally considered a name change. The Arlington members will be there to “provide input” on potential new names for the road, an Alexandria official said.
The suggested name or names are expected to be presented to the City Council by the end of the year.