“Langston Boulevard” Proposed as New Name for Lee Highway

“Loving Avenue” is out and “Langston Boulevard” is in as the likely new name for Lee Highway in Arlington.

The renaming is on the Arlington County Board agenda for this Saturday, but County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending it be deferred until the Board’s July 17 meeting, to allow additional time for public feedback and for more precise cost estimates.

County staff have selected “Langston Boulevard” from the finalists submitted by a task force, which was charged with replacing both “Lee” and “Highway.” Currently, Route 29 in the county is named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, whose name was removed from one of Arlington’s high schools and whose house is being removed from the county logo.

Previously, the task force recommended Loving Avenue as the name, in honor of the interracial couple whose landmark U.S. Supreme Court case inspired the film that bears their name. That was nixed after the couple’s descendants objected.

The new name honors John M. Langston, an abolitionist, attorney and member of Congress whose name is also on an Arlington school, community center and civic association.

From a county staff report:

With the Arlington County Board’s support in July 2020, the Lee Highway Alliance (LHA) embarked on an extensive planning and public engagement effort to recommend a new name for Lee Highway in Arlington. This process culminated with a final report in December 2020. At that time, the selected choice for the renaming was “Mildred & Richard Loving Avenue.” However, in vetting the selection by way of conversations with direct descendants, it was determined that the family was not in support of the name’s use. With foresight, the LHA Working Group process included a list of other top choices for renaming. The second ranked choice, and current recommendation, is John M. Langston Boulevard.

The recommendation is being further abbreviated, to “Langston Boulevard,” to assist with operational considerations including wayfinding; character limitations on existing signage; and to avoid undue financial costs which would be incurred if the entire name were to be included as part of the existing sign portfolio managed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). If the name is longer, VDOT has indicated larger signs would be needed to accommodate all the letters, and the sign structures will need to be redesigned and constructed.

The current estimate for new “Langston Boulevard” signage along Route 29 is about $300,000.

Hat tip to Ginger Brown

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