Loudoun’s Rt. 7, Rt. 50 Renaming Panel Makes Final Recommendations

The work of the committee tasked with recommending new names for Route 7 and Route 50, changing those names away from racist figures, has wrapped up and county supervisors will next decide those roads’ new names.

After a process that involved both naming suggestions from the public and subsequent public input on those options, the task force has endorsed giving Route 7 and Route 50 back their historic name. In weighted surveys of the public, the most popular option for both roads was simply giving those roads back their historic names: Leesburg Pike and Little River Turnpike.

In 1968, at the height of the civil rights movement, the Virginia State Highway Commission renamed Route 7 from Alexandria to Winchester to honor Harry Byrd Sr., the segregationist lawmaker and governor who led “massive resistance” to close Virginia schools rather than integrate them. But before that—and today in Fairfax—the road was known along much of its length as Leesburg Pike.

Currently it is named Harry Byrd Highway from the Shenandoah River to Loudoun’s eastern border. That also means if only the Loudoun section is renamed Leesburg Pike, there would remain a section of road just under three miles long still named for Byrd. Ultimately that decision will fall to the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

Naming the road Leesburg Pike may also necessitate renaming Leesburg Court off Winchester Drive in Sterling Park with three addresses, under a county policy that restricts duplicate names to avoid confusion and ensure timely by first responders.

More than a decade later, the General Assembly named Route 50 in memory of John Singleton Mosby, a Confederate Army colonel, in 1980, reenacting that decision in 1982. That highway follows the path of a trail first made by Native Americans and expanded upon by colonists over the centuries; it was first called Little River Turnpike with its first paving—more akin to today’s gravel roads—in 1806.

That may require renaming Little River Lane, a short road off Route 15 near the Little River with two addresses.

Other options for Route 7 included Potomac Gap, Potomac Heritage, Catoctin Valley and Loudoun Trail. For Route 50, the options include Middleburg and Piedmont Heritage, and names suggested for both are Loudoun Heritage, Piedmont Gateway and Virginia Piedmont.

Some task force members regretted that the committee decided not to consider naming the highways after historic individuals, much as the committee and staff members decided they would not consider simply naming the roads “Route 7” and “Route 50.”

“I do think it’s a shame this exercise did miss the opportunity to recognize some of the individuals who shaped and defined Loudoun County,” said Loudoun County Heritage Commission chair Robert Pollard, who advocated for considering naming a road after Gen. George C. Marshall. “AS it is, some of the names that we selected are rather bland. It sounds almost like something you’d find on a Hallmark card.”

“I feel like this has been a win, and that the process indeed did work, and is something that to be proud of,” said Heritage Commission member Margarete Good.
Next, county supervisors will choose new names and send their request to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which has the authority to rename state highways. Supervisors are expected to meet on those names Dec. 7.

10 thoughts on “Loudoun’s Rt. 7, Rt. 50 Renaming Panel Makes Final Recommendations

  • 2021-10-21 at 1:49 pm
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    Anyone who supports this and thinks it makes a difference is not be fit to shine General Lee’s boots.

  • 2021-10-21 at 2:10 pm
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    I can live with Leesburg Pike & Little River Turnpike. Anything is better than Harry Byrd Highway & John Mosby Highway. The Little River that flows through Aldie is so lovely & tranquil. I think it merits recognition on roadway signs. P.S. — I urge the Commonwealth Transportation Board to get moving on renaming the rest of Harry Byrd Highway. I grieve for African-Americans subjected to such signs.

  • 2021-10-21 at 2:29 pm
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    Whew! The county is saved. Let’s talk about how the BOS can ponder picking up the excessive trash along these roadways. Something that would actually matter to taxpayers.

  • 2021-10-21 at 2:40 pm
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    Of course, Leesburg and Leesburg Pike are named after one of the old Virginia Lee family members who owned slaves. And Loudoun after whom Loudoun County is named was also a slave owner just like Fairfax and Arlington. So swapping one “racist name” for another is the goal here? It is all theater and will cost taxpayers a fortune and confuse people for years.

  • 2021-10-21 at 6:48 pm
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    I’ve lived in Northern Virginia my entire life (almost 70 years) and Rt 7 and Rt 50 have always been known to native old-timers as Leesburg Pike and Little River Turnpike. So good choices Loudoun County Supervisors! Now, quit wasting my hard earned tax money on re-naming other roads, buildings or schools and start spending the tax revenue in more meaningful ways that will truly HELP the citizens of Loudoun County.

  • 2021-10-21 at 8:30 pm
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    I grew up in this area – my mom’s family has been in the area since the 1940s. I never did really call either of the two roads in question with the changed names – sticking to the historical names of Leesburg Pike and Little River Turnpike, because of all the much older and less contentious history behind those names. I was alive and cognizant when both the roads had their names changed, and was annoyed at the time (and most of the folks my age also tend to call both roads by their original names.) BTW – there is a tremendous amount of history in both roads, touched on by the article, and it would be a shame to lose all that by going to something as uninspired as a number. Mitigate costs by phasing in the names if need be – but don’t lose my Virginia history by eradicating the original names too. BTW – you would still have to change virtually all of the signage on the actual highways, the only thing you are preventing is the changing of the names of the small roads, and I would THINK that getting a dispensation for the current rule preventing similar names should either be doable, or looking at the specific number of signs impacted on those numbers of homes, get a valid cost for the change. It just didn’t look like that many actual addresses were going to be impacted. Yes, it will be a pain in the posterior for mapmakers, but since the majority of that is now digital, and be changed with a few tapes on a keyboard, it really is less of an issue than you might think.

  • 2021-10-23 at 12:17 am
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    I’m not sure why we can’t just call them route 7 and route 50. If we’re not going to name them after people, or anything meaningful, then why have two names? It’s mildly annoying when the gps says “Turn left onto route 1853” and you have to quickly figure out if route 1853 is the same as Smith Highway.

  • 2021-10-23 at 10:20 am
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    I’ve lived in Loudoun for 25 years. If you asked me where Harry Byrd Hwy or John Mosby Hwy were I wouldn’t have a clue. If you asked me about Rte 7, Rte 9, Rte, 15, Rte 28 or Rte 50, I can tell you where they are and just about every business on them.

  • 2021-10-23 at 11:07 am
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    How about “Rt 7” and “Rt 50”?

    Seems politically correct….

  • 2021-10-24 at 3:46 pm
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    Calling these roads “Rt 7, Rt 50, etc.” makes too much sense. Instead, we’re going to get the (yawn) usual choices: Martin Luther King Jr. highway, Barack Obama highway, John Lewis highway, etc. etc. It won’t be long before we get George Floyd Highway too.
    Whatever.

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