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A new sign on Interstate 64 points the way to CEBAF, the former name of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News. The name was changed in 1996.
Adrin Snider/Daily Press

New I-64 Sign Points to Times Past

Exit marks 'CEBAF,' not Jefferson Lab

NEWPORT NEWS - The phrase "Don't believe everything you read" also applies to highway signs, particularly a new sign for "CEBAF" on Interstate 64 near the Jefferson Avenue exits.

There is no CEBAF. Not exactly, anyway.

CEBAF -- the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, a physics lab on Jefferson Avenue in Newport News -- hasn't been called CEBAF since May 1996, when its name was changed to the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.

But a few weeks ago, up went the sign for "CEBAF. " Here's the explanation:

"What has happened out there is when the sign plans were drawn up, Jefferson Lab was CEBAF," said Andy McLaughlin, a Virginia Department of Transportation supervisor who, among other things, monitors certain types of highway signs. "It's really nobody's fault, except maybe transportation planning. Nobody in Richmond called to say, 'Do we need any new signs down there?'"

When the sign went up, he said he told the contractor to remove it, but nothing happened. On Tuesday, after the Daily Press inquired about it, he said he again notified the contractor and VDOT officials.

"I told them you need to get this done ASAP, " he said.

Why the urgency?

It seems that Jefferson Lab paid about $3,000 for its I-64 signs.

"When they pay for it, in essence, it's their sign," McLaughlin said. "Any screwup we try to fix right away."

He said VDOT sign makers can have a sign ready in a couple of days, so it should be fixed as early as next week.

Meanwhile, Jefferson Lab officials seem pretty laid back about the whole thing.

They admit that inaccurate signs can make it difficult to give visitors good directions to the lab, but they note that the lab's particle accelerator is still technically called CEBAF.

"I know that Virginians are proud of their history and heritage," said Hermann Grunder, the lab's director.

"Maybe the CEBAF sign is someone's idea of preserving a piece of CEBAF's history -- and for that, we actually might be grateful."