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.