The West Virginia Turnpike was a modern marvel when it opened in the 1950s as it tied Charleston to Princeton with an 88-mile ribbon of concrete.
But this godsend can also turn into hell on Earth when a collision backs up traffic. Drivers who have paid good money for a safe trip north or south suddenly find themselves trapped in idled cars.
Turnpike officials finally developed detour routes following a huge snowstorm four years ago. The detours showed how valuable the Turnpike is in reducing travel time.
If there's an accident that blocks traffic for more than two hours, Detour A is a 130-mile tour that takes would-be Turnpike traffic from Charleston to Duck (south of Sutton) and on down to Summersville before entering the Turnpike at North Beckley, a journey that would be 37 miles on the Turnpike.
Detour E turns a 31-mile stretch of the Turnpike into a 112-mile journey from Beckley to Lewisburg and then back to Princeton.
Given these circumstances, Turnpike officials do not open the detours until they know traffic will be at a standstill for two hours or longer.
A collision last week tied up traffic for hours.
Motorists felt the detours should have been opened earlier. They may be right, but it's a tough call to ask people to triple the length of their drive.
Nonetheless, Turnpike officials should review their policies on opening the detours and also work to improve communication with drivers who can't get there from here.