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Residents Divided: Route 1 Or Richmond Highway?

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Fairfax County residents are divided over what this road is called. Route 1... or Richmond Highway?
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Fairfax County residents are divided over what this road is called. Route 1... or Richmond Highway?

Cars zoom along the corridor that connects the Occoquan River to the Capital Beltway. What road are they driving along? Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland says it's Richmond Highway, not Route One -- a name that for many evokes memories of the "bad old days."

"Open-air marketing of drugs, prostitutes who openly walked up and down Route 1... It had a very negative connotation," he says.

Route 1 is a designation that dates back to 1918, when U.S. 1 was added to the state's highway system as State Route 1. It was briefly known as State Road 31 in the 1920s and early 1930s until the New Deal created an Atlantic highway known as Route 1. After World War II, the Interstate system took much of the major traffic. Businesses on parts of Route 1 suffered, and crime proliferated.

"The post office believes it is Richmond Highway," says Katherine Ward, who lives in the Wellington neighborhood of Mount Vernon. "Therefore it is Richmond Highway."

She disagrees with Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay, who says it's Route One.

"That's what it is on U.S. maps," says Ward. "That's what it is on GPS systems. That's what it is for people who have lived there for a long time, and I don't have a problem with that."

David Ben of the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation says he prefers Richmond Highway. But he also says they've tried to stop referring to the corridor as a whole, and start referring more to each of the neighborhoods.

Whatever you call the road, one thing is clear. Choosing the right name — Route One or Richmond Highway — is a political decision, one that many people will support or oppose — depending on which side of the road they're standing on.

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