History of state highways in Virginia

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System information
Length57,867 mi[1] (93,128 km)
NotesOutside cities, some towns, and two counties, every road is state-maintained. These roads are split into primary and secondary State Routes, and receive different levels of funding. Inside cities, most primary State Routes are locally maintained.
Highway names
InterstatesInterstate X (I-X)
US HighwaysU.S. Route X (US X)
StateState Route X (SR X) or Virginia Route X (VA X)
System links

The History of State Highways in Virginia begins with Virginia's State Highway Commission, which was formed by the General Assembly in 1906. In 1918 the General Assembly designated a 4002-mile (6441 km) state highway system to be maintained by the commission. Beginning in 1922, the commission was authorized to add annually mileage equal to 2.5% of the original system (100 miles or 161 km).[2] These highways were numbered from 1 into the 20s; by 1922 suffixed spurs had been added (such as 7X from 7). In 1923, the first renumbering was implemented, in which State Routes 1 to 9 became 31 to 39. The spurs were renamed to use numbers rather than letters (such as 114 from 11), and four-digit numbers were used for spurs of spurs (such as 1141 from 114) or for "rollovers" (such as 1010 from 10, as 101 to 109 were all in use).[3]

The United States Numbered Highways were designated in late 1926. In 1928, the state routes were renumbered again; all the spurs were instead numbered by district, using the district number as the first digit. State routes that were also U.S. Routes had signage removed, but continued to be referred to by the Department of Highways[3] (renamed from the State Highway Commission in 1927[2]).

In 1932, the Byrd Road Act promoted by former Governor Harry F. Byrd and the Byrd Organization created the state's "Secondary System" of roads in the counties. Virginia's incorporated towns were provided a local option to participate, and all the counties in Virginia were given the option of turning this responsibility over to the state. However, Virginia's independent cities were excluded, typical of the Byrd Organization and its leader's rural priorities and political power base.

Only four counties of more than 90 initially opted not to join the system. Of these, Nottoway County opted to join the state system in 1933, and in the 1950s, Warwick County became an independent city and was then consolidated with another, forming the modern City of Newport News. (By the end of the 20th century, only Arlington and Henrico Counties were continuing to maintain their own roads.)

Generally, when an area became part of an independent city, through annexation, merger, consolidation, or conversions, the secondary roads passed from the state system to local responsibility. An exception was made by the General Assembly in the former Nansemond County, which like Warwick County, became an independent city (in 1972) and then 18 months later, consolidated with neighboring Suffolk in 1974. Under that special arrangement, VDOT maintained secondary routes in Suffolk until July 1, 2006. This arrangement eventually led to new conflicts over ownership and responsibility for the circa 1928 Kings Highway Bridge across the Nansemond River on State Route 125, which was closed in 2005 by VDOT for safety reasons.[4][5]

The DoT took over road maintenance from most counties in 1932, forming the state secondary system.[2] These routes were assigned numbers from 600 up, so the primary routes were renumbered again in 1933, assigning smaller ranges to each district. State routes with numbers that conflicted with U.S. Routes were renumbered, and the unsigned concurrencies were dropped. The numbers from 2 to 9 were again assigned (1 was not because of U.S. Route 1):[3]

State Route 10 is the smallest number to survive from the 1918 system to the present day, though in a greatly modified form. State Route 35 is largely the same as the original SR 5, renumbered in 1923.

Two more renumberings took place in 1940, when routes ending at state lines were renumbered to match the adjacent state, and in 1958, when routes with numbers used for Interstate Highways were renumbered.[3]

Historic lists of routes




District 1

District 2

District 3

District 4

District 5

District 6

District 7

District 8


  1. ^ About VDOT: Virginia's Highway System. Retrieved September 23, 2006.
  2. ^ a b c "A History of Roads in Virginia" (PDF). (3.70 MB)
  3. ^ a b c d Virginia Highways Project: A History Of Route Numbering
  4. ^ Aaron Applegate, VDOT, city of Suffolk battle over closed Kings Highway Bridge Archived 2006-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, The Virginian-Pilot, May 1, 2006
  5. ^ John Warren, Flooding blamed on clogged ditches[permanent dead link], The Virginian-Pilot, July 11, 2006