In the 2009 Session, I was sitting on the floor one day when my former colleague Delegate Sam Nixon from Chesterfield County stood up and described legislation designating a portion of U.S. 1 through Chesterfield County, Virginia as "Historic Route 1." As soon as I heard "Route 1," my ears perked up.
I ran over to him on the floor to ask him what the impetus and intent was for the legislation. He indicated that Chesterfield County was concerned about the reputation Route 1 had in their jurisdiction and were focusing a redevelopment effort around the historic assets on their part of Route 1. They were also partnering with the City of Richmond to promote Route 1 travel throughout Virginia.
I thought this would be a great idea not just for Chesterfield County, but also for the Mount Vernon part of Route 1 and pretty much the entire state. When I lived in Arlington County for three years, I served on the Historic Affairs and Landmarks Review Board. Historic designations frequently improve the desirability of properties and promote economic development when they occur. I had also introduced legislation that session focusing on Route 1's historic assets throughout the entire state proposing that a special transportation district be created for Route 1 improvements to leverage these assets.
Our part of Route 1 has significant tourism resources. Mount Vernon is the #1 historic tourist asset in the state receiving 1,000,000 visitors per year - more visitors than Monticello and Colonial Williamsburg. We have the Woodlawn Mansion, Gunston Hall, and the Army Museum set to open just off the Fairfax County Parkway. The historic properties of Huntley Manor, Gum Springs, and Beacon Hill are close to Route 1. These are assets that our area should use to create jobs.
Given the stage in the process the legislation was at when I discovered it, we decided that we ought to ask the Governor to amend the bill. I drafted a letter which was ultimately signed by 32 legislators who districts contained precincts on Route 1 and Governor McDonnell amended the legislation.
A few months ago, I was driving along U.S. 1 in Fort Belvoir and noticed that the first signs had started to go up to promote this. One of the signs is above.
It's a small step, but it is progress as we seek to focus attention on the special qualities of the Route 1 Corridor that are frequently unappreciated.