Loudoun County will host two sessions of a public input meeting on the shortlist of possible new names for Rt. 7 and Rt. 50, after supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the finalists.
The public input sessions will be the public’s second chance to help choose the future names of Loudoun’s two major highways, which the county board is working to rename away from segregationist Harry Byrd and Confederate John Mosby.
Previous public input opportunities allowed members of the community to offer up suggestions for new names; this time, they will have the chance to pick favorites or offer feedback from among a shortlist of options selected by a renaming committee and approved by county supervisors.
The names supervisors approved on Sept. 21 were whittled down from 752 suggestions online, 714 of them coming from within Virginia, according to a county report to supervisors. Twenty-eight more suggestions came from Maryland, three from West Virginia, two from Pennsylvania, and one from Washington, DC. Two people with apparently particularly long commutes weighed in from Alabama and Michigan.
For Rt. 7, the renaming committee recommended Potomac Gap, Loudoun Trail, Potomac Heritage, Catoctin Valley and Leesburg. For Rt. 50, the committee recommended choosing from Middleburg, Piedmont Heritage, and Little River. The committee recommended Virginia Piedmont, Loudoun Heritage and Piedmont Gateway for either.
Some names come with complications. Longer names can cost more—replacing the signs is estimated to cost $621,000 to $3,204,000, depending on whether the names are long enough to require larger signs, more than 16 characters.
Some of the options raise the possibility of coordinating with Fairfax County, which is also currently renaming some highways, including Rt. 50. In Fairfax, that highway is named Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway. Fairfax is not renaming Rt. 7, which across the county line is named Leesburg Pike, however Loudoun could also change the road’s name to Leesburg Pike.
Deciding to coordinate with Fairfax on Rt. 50 would delay the project. And under county ordinances, which do not permit duplicate road names, if the county renamed Rt. 7 to Leesburg Pike, two other streets in the county will have to be renamed. Additionally, if the county opts to rename Rt. 50 as Little River Turnpike, it will likely also have to rename Little River Lane, a privately owned and maintained road near Aldie.
But Leesburg Pike and Little River Turnpike also emerged as favorites among county supervisors during their meeting, since they are both the historic names of those roads.
“I was clear that I would not support any names that require new poles and signage that drive the cost of this exercise into the millions, but I am encouraged by the fact that Leesburg Pike and Little River Turnpike could be moved forward without needing that,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles).
County staff members are also looking into a stipend program for people and businesses affected by the name change. According to a county staff report, there are approximately 360 addresses assigned from Harry Byrd Highway, with about a quarter of those business addresses. There are approximately 305 addresses on John Mosby Highway.
The online public input meetings will be Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.Members of the public are invited to attend either of the virtual meetings to hear anoverview of the project and comment on the proposed names.
Login information and meeting materials are online at loudoun.gov/renaming7and50 and loudoun.gov/remoteparticipation, including a speaker sign-up form. To speak during the event, members of the public must sign up in advance by noon on Tuesday, Sept. 28. Online participants can also send questions as chat messages, to be answered as time allows.
After that meeting, starting Sept. 30, the county will launch an online survey for the public to rank a short list of proposed names by preference, also at loudoun.gov/renaming7and50. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to review that feedback in December.
The county board will then send a request to the state Department of Transportation. Ultimate authority to rename the highways rests with the Commonwealth Transportation Board.