Naming Bridges and Highways

How do Bridges, Highways and Interchanges get named?

Bridges, highways, and interchanges in Virginia can be named by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) or by action of the General Assembly. The naming of a facility by the CTB may occur at the request of a local jurisdiction or at the request of the head of a state agency if the facility is being named after a “state official” from the agency who was killed during the performance of their official duties. “State official,” in the context of naming bridges, highways and interchanges includes law enforcement officers employed by the Department of State Police and state highway transportation workers.

When a local jurisdiction makes the request, it must agree to bear the costs of producing, erecting, and maintaining appropriate signs. However, those costs shall be paid from Commonwealth Transportation Funds when the facility is being named after a “state official” killed while performing their official duties.

Applicable laws and regulations:

Under Section 33.2-213 of the Code of Virginia and policies adopted by the CTB, the CTB can name a bridge, highway or interchange to honor a deceased person or a group of people such as “Vietnam War Veterans”. The General Assembly may name a bridge or highway or interchange for any purpose or person (deceased or alive) through a bill that is enacted into law.

The most current version of Traffic Engineering Division Memorandum TE-278 Memorial/Dedication Signs for Bridges, Highways, and Highway Segments and the most current revision to the “Virginia Supplement to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)” shall be used by local governments and state agencies as a guide in selecting the text for the proposed sign. All new signs will be erected with brown background. Exact location, sign size, and other display details will be at VDOT discretion. For memorial bridges, VDOT allows one sign for each direction of road on either the underpassing or the overpassing roads; signs may be placed on both underpassing and overpassing roads with Residency Administrator approval and if space permits.

Shorter names are preferable, e.g., “Trooper John Smith Memorial Highway” instead of “Trooper John Brian Smith, III Memorial Highway”. Shorter signs are more readable, less distracting to passing motorists, less expensive, and lessen the likelihood that the size of the sign text will need to be reduced in order to make the sign fit within the right-of-way.

The procedure for local governments and state agencies to request the CTB name a bridge, highway or interchange:

  1. Localities and state agencies are urged to discuss the proposed memorial naming with the Residency Administrator for the residency in which the facility is located prior to passing a formal resolution. (State agencies headed by an individual instead of a board may request a name change by letter.) The Residency Administrator can advise the requesting entity of any practical concerns relating to the proposed bridge, highway or interchange. For example, at some bridges and interchanges, it may be difficult to find an appropriate location to place a sign where it would be visible to passing motorists without blocking sight distance to other critical signs or other traffic control devices; in such instances, the Residency Administrator may suggest an alternate bridge or interchange. Moreover, the Residency Administrator can advise the requesting entity if the length of a proposed naming might result in an excessively wide sign that will be difficult to place within the right-of-way.

  2. A request, in the form of a formal resolution from the locality (either a letter or resolution if from an agency head), must be provided to the Residency Administrator or other designated local VDOT manager. (See Examples) If the request is from a local jurisdiction, the resolution must indicate that the local jurisdiction will pay all costs for the sign, though funding may come in part or in full from the family or a support group. However, whenever a state agency requests that a facility be named after a “state official” killed during the performance of official duties, the costs shall be paid from Commonwealth Transportation Funds.

  3. The Residency Administrator forwards the request, with resolution or letter, to VDOT's District Office for review.
  4. The Residency or District forwards the request, with resolution or letter, to the Maintenance Division’s Roadway Inventory Management Unit for review and action.

  5. VDOT's Maintenance Division prepares the necessary CTB resolution, ensures the action item is on the CTB agenda, and presents the request to the CTB.

  6. If the CTB approves, the Maintenance Division notifies the District Office and Residency Administrator responsible for installing the signs.

  7. The Residency notifies Maintenance Division when the signs are installed.


More questions?

Contact your district office.

Page last modified: Aug. 17, 2023