On January 29, 1983, a group of Virginia politicians picked up some nice shovels and started digging.
“We in Fairfax County may be naive, but we are persistent,” said one of them. John F. “Jack” Herrity, chairman of the local Board of Supervisors.
It was the ceremonial start of what became the Dulles Tollway, a $57 million ribbon to the highway that had been talked about for more than a decade.
Dulles International Airport opened in 1962. In the years that followed, Virginians looked with envy at the Dulles Access Road. The entrance was for airport use only. Even so, some drivers occasionally sneaked into it, turning around at Dulles and exiting the return lane. You can get a ticket for that.
Why do you call the airport ‘Dulles’?
When the Capital Beltway was completed in 1964, there was not much development between I-495 and Dulles. But there is one thing development requires: land, and lots of it. The road can open up that acreage for construction, offices, housing, retail. Two legislators from Northern Virginia led the charge to build the road.
Omer L. Hirst grew up in Annandale on a chicken farm. He graduated in 1930 from Lee-Jackson High in Alexandria, then attended Washington & Lee University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.
Hirst said he didn’t want to work for his father’s real estate company, but he had to. He was drawn to the speech of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the president’s New Deal proposals. In 1953, Hirst, a Democrat, was elected to represent Fairfax-Falls Church in the Virginia House of Delegates. He later served in the state Senate.
In 1955, Hirst was the first congressman from Virginia to oppose the “anti-segregation” movement. Miss Harry Byrd (D).
Adelard Lionel “Abe” Brault he was a liberal, anti-Byrd politician. Born in Connecticut and raised in the District – a graduate of Gonzaga and Catholic University – Brault was first elected to the Virginia Senate in 1966, representing Fairfax. Although the radical Democrat was never fully accepted in Richmond, he later served as majority leader.
Brault considered his greatest political achievement to be passing legislation in 1968 that authorized a program for school children with hearing impairments. It was expanded in 1972 to provide special education for all Virginians with disabilities from 2 to 21 years of age.
Hirst died in 2003 at 89, Brault in 2007 at 97. As for their route, it was officially opened on Oct. 1, 1984. Virginia Gov. Charles Robb deposit the first fee at the toll booth: 25 cents.
As expected, development appeared along the toll road. At George Mason University Stephen Fuller he called it “the most important commercial artery in the whole region.”
In 1991, Govt Senator Charles Waddell (D-Loudoun) told The Washington Post: “Obviously it’s a real success story.” It was the year Waddell sponsored legislation naming the Dulles Toll Road the Omer L. Hirst-Adelard L. Brault Expressway. Waddell said: “I think they should be honored while they’re still alive.”
That April, the bill was signed by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder (D).
People weren’t sure if the long name would catch on. Waddell wasn’t worried. “It remains to be seen, but the tax will be paid,” he said.
Answer Someone has driven that way many times. If there was a sign for the Omer L. Hirst-Adelard L. Brault Expressway, he didn’t notice it. But the next time he is there, he vows to salute the two lawmakers.
Speaking of paying tribute, now would be a good time to thank the important work done by our three Helping Hand partners. City Bread, Friendly place and Miriam’s Kitchen. Your donation of any amount will help them continue their important work to end homelessness and hunger in Washington.
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