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Old Jefferson Davis Highway In Arlington To Be Ripped Up, Renamed

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JEFFERSON DAVIS
Jefferson Davis | Wikimedia

WASHINGTON -- It's the end of the road for Old Jefferson Davis Highway. Once upon a time, the United Daughters of the Confederacy had envisioned a transcontinental highway starting in the nation's capital, stretching across the former Confederate States of America and ending at the Pacific Ocean.

Just across the Potomac River in Virginia, Arlington County is getting ready to rip up a portion of it and erase the name of the former Confederate president in the process.

While Route 1 in Arlington County is known as the Jefferson Davis Highway, there's also a short, often-forgotten stub -- Old Jefferson Davis Highway -- which follows an old alignment to the former Long Bridge, which is today's 14th Street bridge complex for Interstate 395 and Route 1.

The county has been busy building the brand new Long Bridge Park, which opened last month on a tract of land squeezed between Old Jefferson Davis Highway and railroad tracks leading to and from D.C.

As ARLNow reports, Old Jefferson Davis Highway is in awful shape. But the county is gearing up to rebuild the road and rename it -- Long Bridge Drive.

The move will eliminate another reminder of an unsuccessful effort by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to build a counterpart to the transcontinental Lincoln Highway.

According to the Federal Highway Administration's history on the Jefferson Davis Highway, the route never formally materialized as a cross-country route. There were various sections in different areas that didn't connect, which led the Bureau of Public Roads to deny a request to designate a specific U.S. highway route for the entire Jefferson Davis Highway.

When a Texas congressman pressed the cause of an official coast-to-coast numerical designation for the highway, a Bureau of Public Roads bureaucrat replied:

A careful search has been made in our extensive map file in the Bureau of Public Roads and three maps showing the Jefferson Davis highways have been located, but the routes on these maps are themselves different and neither route is approximately that described by you, so that I am somewhat at a loss as to just what route your constituents are interested in. For instance, there is the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway which extends from Miami, Florida to Los Angeles (but not to San Francisco); and there is another Jefferson Davis Highway shown on the Rand-McNally maps which extends from Fairview, Kentucky the site of the Jefferson Davis monument, by a very circuitous route to New Orleans, but I find no route whatever bearing the name Jefferson Davis extending from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco.

Thus, you'll find reminders of Jefferson Davis in different parts of country -- designations by states and local authorities -- but no grand federal ceremonial route honoring Davis.

In Virginia, much of Route 1 honors Jefferson Davis. But in Arlington, one little reminder of the former Confederate president will be soon going away. The name change will be officially in place starting April 1, 2012.