Editor: Despite being out of elected office in Loudoun, I can still manage to read and understand the “action items” presented to the Board of Supervisors, where I served the Leesburg District from 2012 to 2015 and on the Town Council 2006 to 2011 and again in 2017.
Call me weird, but I decided to read the May 18 County Transportation and Infrastructure report to the board on the renaming of Route 7 (Harry Byrd Highway) and Route 50 (John Mosby Highway) after a Leesburg friend told me it was possible Market Street in Leesburg (Business 7) was named for a slave trader named “Market.” I haven’t been able to confirm that yet.
According to the staff report, which was an initiative of Vice Chair Koran Saines, the cost to county taxpayers to rename Route 7 and 50 is enormous—$621,000 if the signs are the same size, $3,204,000 for larger signs “should the replacement name require a larger sign.” This means if Route 7 were renamed Charles Waddell Highway—he was a former Loudoun state senator who got Route 7 west of Leesburg built as an expressway— the higher cost would prevail.
I, for one, would like Route 7 renamed for Charlie, a Democrat, who did a lot for Loudoun County long ago, including getting the Route 28 Tax District going to turn the road into an expressway.
However, these figures are only the cost to county taxpayers for signage and engineering. According to the staff report, “The costs associated with changing a commercial business address are likely to be more substantial and include items such as, but not limited to, replacing signage, marketing materials, and legal documents that are specific to the business.”
Among properties with addresses “Harry Byrd Highway,” about 255 are private homes and 95 are businesses. For “Mosby Highway,” there are 146 residential and 148 commercial “uses.” Staff recommends a “stipend program” to help business, so this would further cost your taxpayers. Only $1 million was identified in the county’s Capital Improvement Program to foot these costs.
Given Loudoun’s huge growth and transportation and infrastructure needs, I would think there’s a better use for this $3.2 million. In addition, I would hope there would be concerns about the precedent this would set for other streets and roads.
In a July 6 follow-up report to the board, county staff identified nine of other roads bearing “Confederate and Segregationist Symbols.” What would be the cost to the county and residents to rename these streets? And, if this effort to blot out the memory of Confederates continues, will the town of Leesburg be pressured, too? So many streets in town limits are named for Confederates, possibly Market Street which has hundreds of businesses and addresses.
But because Byrd and Mosby highways are state roads under VDOT control, and the Mosby and Byrd names extend to counties beyond Loudoun, perhaps the county board can ask the General Assembly for the funding to accomplish these name changes. Or, just post those big brown signs along the road: “Dedicated to the memory of Xxx.”
However, all of this “woke” renaming and removal of monuments is symbolic. None of it will do anything to help rectify the “achievement gap” among black and Latino students, nor move the ball forward for the struggling underclass.
Perhaps “Loudoun” should be renamed LoCo Woke-o County.
Ken Reid, Norfolk