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West Virginia improves highway communication

Tuesday's gas pipeline line explosion prevented southbound and northbound motorists from using a key section of Interstate 77 near Charleston.

The incident was a nightmare for travelers, who suddenly had to use back-road detours to get to their destinations.

Better communication might have spared a few people from having to endure long delays.

That is why it is good news that the Division of Highways on Wednesday launched a 511 information system that sends motorists the latest information about crashes, construction, weather and other events that affect the highways and the byways in the state.

This move to modern communications had been in the works for a long time. It went into operation statewide on Wednesday.

Drivers can dial 511 from their hands-free cellphones while driving to get up-to-date information. There is also an app for use on smartphones. The app is free for users of the iPhone and Android systems.

The 511 system is in addition to the electronic signs that dot many of the freeways in the state to alert drivers to accidents and other traffic hazards.

"I am committed to improving the safety of our roadways, and the West Virginia 511 Traveler Information System will be a valuable addition to this effort," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said.

"For motorists throughout the state, having access to real-time information on traffic and road conditions before they go provides advanced warning of road conditions and congestion that can be crucial in increasing safety on the roadways."

This is a great development. The Federal Communications Commission set aside the 511 for states to dispense traffic information.

West Virginia's terrain and weather combine to make travel difficult. There are not many alternative routes when it comes to the West Virginia Turnpike and the rest of the state's interstates.

Forewarned is forearmed.



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