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The new segment of W.Va. Route 10 that opened this past spring has been improved, and it’s much better.

It now has a center turn lane for most of its length — from Green Valley Road to Huntington High School. My first thought when I saw that the turn lane had been added was, what a waste of time and money. Then I remembered the times when I was stopped on the new road, trying to turn left, and I was scared when it appeared the people coming up behind me weren’t going to stop in time.

Other improvements have been made, such as restoring the access to the new road from the old Route 10 north of Norwood Road. The entry and exit to Green Valley is better. The addition of the lane on Green Valley at Hite-Saunders Elementary should reduce backups on that road and on Route 10 whenever school reopens.

Once the remaining guardrails are in place (assuming there will be some) and once signs are added, the new road will be much safer.

Having the center turn lane required a trade-off — the loss of a wide berm in case of mechanical trouble. But the trade-off was worth it.

Is this the future of wider two-lane roads in West Virginia, particularly those near cities? Given the speed that traffic moves on these roads, it would be nice where it is practical.

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Remember when coal truck traffic was heavy on U.S. Route 52 in Wayne County? Those were the days when it seemed every truck was loaded heavier than the law allowed. The trucks were a traffic hazard.

Or maybe the hazard was in the inability or unwillingness of automobile drivers to give overloaded trucks the room they needed. Or both.

The Tolsia Highway, as the road is also known, was one of the deadliest in West Virginia for a while.

The last few times I’ve been on the road, I haven’t seen many trucks. That ties in with the number of idled coal docks you see along the road.

A free-market economist would probably say the market took care of the safety problem, the way the market was the solution to problems surrounding mountaintop coal mining. When the demand for coal dropped, so did the ongoing problems related to coal.

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Twenty-one years ago, fellow Herald-Dispatch reporter Beth Gorczyca and I were assigned to do a package of stories about W.Va. Route 2. Way back in the 1960s, there were plans to upgrade the road along the Ohio River to four lanes from Huntington to Wheeling and beyond. Whatever happened to those plans was the question we were to answer.

We spent a couple of days driving the length of Route 2 from Huntington to Chester. We talked to dozens of people. While there was still some interest in upgrading Route 2, there wasn’t enough to go forward with the idea. There was too much competition from other projects, such as four-laning U.S. Route 35 in West Virginia from Henderson to St. Albans.

Today’s political market apparently has little to no demand for an improved Route 2.

Side note: When the Merritts Creek connector from Route 2 at Lesage to U.S. Route 60 at Barboursville was being planned, it was to be designated as W.Va. 2, and the road along the river south of Lesage was to be renamed. Then-Mayor Bobby Nelson lobbied against that plan, saying Route 2 needed to terminate in Huntington. His objection carried the day.

Jim Ross is development and opinion editor of The Herald-Dispatch. His email is jross@hdmediallc.com.

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