A Little Perspective on Richmond Highway
The state of Richmond Highway has improved over the last two decades.
About two years ago, Delegate Scott Surovell and Senator Toddy Puller had a letter published in the Washington Post that suggested that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors needed to pay more attention and direct more resources to the Richmond Highway corridor. In the letter, they bemoaned the “six trailer parks, two Wal-Marts, four thrift stores, 14 7-Elevens…a pawn shop, check-cashing stores…” Well, you get the idea. Although well-intentioned, the letter did not sit well with our supervisors, Jeff McKay and Gerry Hyland.
Look, we all know that Richmond Highway is not the Champs-Elysees or Main Street USA. We don’t walk up and down the avenue at night with our family, licking ice cream cones and tipping our straw hats to our neighbors. There are no barbershop quartets strolling around signing “Lida Rose.” And, worse, we still have too many auto repair shops, car title loan offices and psychics (although I’m thrilled that mine recently said my hair would soon grow back).
But let’s look at the forest for the trees, or through the trees, or whatever that phrase is. I can remember just 20 years ago, when I was a dashing carefree yuppie living in the fashionable Del Ray section of Alexandria. At that time, my yuppie wife and I would never think about going down Route One unless we got lost. Indeed, that actually happened one night and I remember vividly being welcomed to Fairfax County by several women in twinkly high heels and blue hot pants waving to us. They were standing in front of a hotel with a big neon sign announcing “Weekend Special – 15 Minutes for $15.” Porn shops abounded and you literally took your life in your hands if you stopped for a cup of coffee.
So, let’s keep things in perspective. Since we’ve moved into Mount Vernon we’ve a lot of dramatic changes on Route One. For starters, we now call it “Richmond Highway,” which I guess is some kind of progress. Then there is the Mount Vernon Plaza, where the old Ames Department store and the miniature golf course used to be. Remember how the store on the corner of that shopping center where Chevy’s has been for years used to change every other week? At the Beacon Mall, we’ve now got a number of good restaurants. Costco will be breaking ground, there are new housing complexes sprouting up. We’ve got several new hotels that do not charge by the hour and, although it’s not right on Richmond Highway, there’s a new Wegman’s coming soon that will be accessible when the new Mulligan Road is completed. Meanwhile, there are a number of new sidewalks being constructed, not to mention several intersection improvements.
It’s not perfect and, yes, I get ticked off when I see yet another new laundromat going in and, yes, the traffic is the pits and will probably get worse. But like I said earlier, we don’t live in Ames, Iowa. Heck, we don’t even live in Old Town Alexandria. We live in an urban setting, one that has changed dramatically over the years. And there are more changes coming.
And let’s not forget that whenever we want, we can have a picnic lunch along the beautiful Potomac, our own personal little river right in our backyard.
That ain’t chopped liver.