(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Arlington’s Lee Highway Alliance, with the county’s blessing, is embarking on a renaming process for Lee Highway.
In a press release this morning, the nonprofit said it will be convening a working group to compile a “shortlist” of new names for Lee Highway, which will be sent to the County Board for consideration. The county is expected to coordinate with neighboring jurisdictions on the name.
Lee Highway, also known as Route 29, is a main east-west commuter route and commercial corridor that runs through residential north Arlington and parts of Rosslyn. It once part of an auto trail that ran from New York City to San Francisco via southern states, in honor of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“My colleagues and I are glad to see neighborhood leaders as skilled at consensus-building as the Lee Highway Alliance begin this important conversation about our community’s past — and our vision for our shared future,” County Board Katie Cristol said in a press release.
A recent, unscientific ARLnow poll found that 58% of respondents think it’s time to change the name of Lee Highway, while 42% want to keep it.
Last year Jefferson Davis Highway, named after the Confederate president, was renamed Richmond Highway in Arlington.
The full press release is below.
With the Arlington County Board’s support, the Lee Highway Alliance (LHA) is moving forward to re-name Lee Highway. As stated by County Board Member, Katie Cristol: “My colleagues and I are glad to see neighborhood leaders as skilled at consensus-building as the Lee Highway Alliance begin this important conversation about our community’s past – and our vision for our shared future.”
LHA will develop a Working Group of stakeholders including the LHA Community Advisory Committee, civic associations, property owners, and business owners in the corridor. The Working Group will meet over the summer and into the fall, at which time a shortlist of names will be sent to the County Board.
It is presumed that the numbering as US Route 29 will be maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), which is the owner of the highway. Arlington must reach consensus on the name with adjacent jurisdictions. Many years ago, the City of Falls Church re-named their portion of Lee Highway ‘Washington Street.’ Unlike Virginia counties, Virginia cities are not required to get approval from the Commonwealth.
Arlington already has successfully renamed one state highway within its borders. In April of 2019, the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to approve a resolution asking that the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) rename Arlington’s 2.56 mile portion of Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) to Richmond Highway. Re-naming Lee Highway would follow the same legislative process with the CTB or Virginia General Assembly providing final approval.
LHA is also working with the County and hundreds of stakeholders on Plan Lee Highway, an urban planning project to re-visualize the corridor. The goal is to make it more sustainable, attractive, walkable, welcoming and economically viable for residents and businesses. The comprehensive planning process also includes managing climate change and strengthening environmental safeguards, as well as updating Arlington’s General Land Use Plan (GLUP).
Sandi Chesrown, Vice Chair of Plan Lee Highway and Vice President of LHA, noted:
“We cannot change the history of Virginia. But the names of streets and highways matter and indicate a community’s contemporary values. As we revitalize the corridor and our branding through Plan Lee Highway, together we will look to the future and arrive at a name that better reflects our identity, our aspirations, and our ‘main street’ character.”‘