U.S. 1 gets new names, signs

3/4/2021, 6 p.m.
Get ready to ride Emancipation Highway.
Richmond Department of Public Works crews have been busy since Feb. 25 replacing street signs along U.S. 1 formerly named for Confederate Jefferson Davis with the new name, Richmond Highway. City Council voted last summer to change its name. Officials said it will take about a month to replace about 98 signs. The cost: $45,000. Photo by Sandra Sellars

Get ready to ride Emancipation Highway.

That is going to be the new name for the sections of U.S. 1 that now bear the name of the slavery-defending Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Delegate Joshua G. Cole, a Fredericks- burg Democrat and member of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, proposed the new name in seeking a dramatic break with the past honors for the failed Confederacy.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy were successful in pushing the agenda to honor traitors starting 110 years ago.

Delegate Cole’s proposed name Emancipation Highway has secured the approval of both the House of Delegates and the state Senate and now needs the governor’s signature to become law. Gov. Ralph S. Northam has said he would sign the bill.

The measure would become effective Jan. 1, 2022, and make Virginia the first state to erase the Jefferson Davis name from its portion of the national highway system.

Delegate Cole’s bill would not impact any sections of U.S. 1 that already bear different names or from which the Davis name already has been stripped. That includes Alexandria, Arlington and Prince William counties and Richmond, whose local governing bodies previously approved replacing the Davis name with Richmond Highway.

In Richmond, the city Department of Public Works has started installing the new Richmond Highway signs on the 4-mile stretch of U.S. 1 in South Side that bore the Davis name. Some parts of U.S. 1 in the city have long had different names, including Cowardin Avenue, Belvidere Street and Chamberlayne Avenue. Those names would not be affected by the bill.

Delegate Cole said his goal was to eliminate the Jefferson Davis designation, but he is hopeful communities that have gone with Richmond Highway will consider another renaming to make the road’s name more uniform in the state.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Virginia is one of 10 states stretching to California that have named portions of highways for the white supremacist who sought to create a separate nation in which slavery would be perpetual.