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Whopper Highway? Virginia considers selling road-naming rights

January 23, 2012 |  9:58 am

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnellIn Virginia, the road to a pothole-free ride may be over the Big Mac Bridge.

Gov. Robert McDonnell is proposing selling the naming rights for the state’s bridges and highways in order to generate funds for road maintenance.

Transit systems are already selling naming rights for stations -- AT&T Station in Philadelphia, for example. And legislation to allow school boards to sell the naming rights for school cafeterias has been introduced in Florida. But the idea is controversial.

"My initial reaction is that the thought of my GPS telling me to take the Starbucks Bridge and make a right onto Burger King Drive is rather depressing, and would represent yet more ceding of public space to private interests," said Max R. Ashburn of Scenic America, a Washington, D.C.,-based group.

Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, campaign coordinator for Commercial Alert, a project of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said the proposal would turn the state into a marketer working on behalf of corporate interests.

"Naming public entities after corporations, instead of, for example, local or national heroes and historical figures, shows a real decline in our values," she told The Times. "It sends the message to citizens that every aspect of their state is for sale, undermining the value and virtues of public space.''

Virginia transportation officials would establish the rules, including how much the state should charge a corporation for naming rights, if the state’s General Assembly gives the green light to the governor's proposal.

“Virginia is looking for all innovative funding methods that can help address our transportation needs without raising taxes on our citizens during these difficult economic times,” said Jeff Caldwell, press secretary for the governor. 


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-- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.

Photo:  Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell speaks during a news conference Jan. 16. Credit: Alexa Welch Edlund/Richmond Times-Dispatch/Associated Press