Easing Congestion At The Highlands

Ohio County commissioners are right to be considering ways to construct a second Interstate 70 exchange at The Highlands. Finding money to do the work will be a challenge, however.

A new interchange would take some of the pressure off the existing one during periods of congestion, which are becoming increasingly common at the giant retail center.

Commissioners have been kicking the idea around for the past few years. But when they seek state funding for the interchange, they are told there simply isn’t any money to spare at the West Virginia Division of Highways. DOH officials can’t keep up with existing needs for maintenance, much less commit large amounts for improvements such as The Highlands interchange.

Bad news from Charleston has prompted commissioners to consider local funding. If that happens, the project would proceed slowly because Ohio County simply does not have the huge amount of money needed.

One strategy might be a local-state-federal approach. Commissioners could kick in some funding, obtain a little more from the state, then point the project’s importance out in Washington, in hopes of receiving some cash there. Perhaps there is leftover “stimulus” money for such projects.

The interchange fits squarely in the category of an economic development initiative, both to create new jobs and preserve existing ones. The Highlands has grown by leaps and bounds, to the point the original access and egress roads have proven insufficient. Shoppers forced to wait long in traffic sometimes find less aggravating places to spend their money.

Within weeks, as the Christmas shopping season gathers steam, ample evidence of the need for what amounts to a traffic pressure-relief valve will present itself.

Commissioners should continue planning for a new interchange.