Wheeling has placed only 1,225th out of 1,360 in a recent report on a critical indicator of thriving cities, traffic. The prestigious INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard details the woeful state of local congestion, which is so light that fully 90 percent of the cities studied had more epic backups.

Traffic is an oft-misunderstood phenomenon. Most people think it’s just a frustrating waste of time, but it’s so much more. It’s actually a concerted community effort to demonstrate that a city has “Made It” in the world. Just look at the traffic top 10:

These are gleaming, modern cities, people! Who hasn’t sat bumper-to-bumper in New York, San Francisco or Magnitogorsk (or was that Monaco? Maybe it was Monaco) and dreamed of what Wheeling could be like someday? Well, we’re going to have to up our traffic game. At only No. 1,225, we’re not so different from Gordo, Ala., which, according to Wikipedia, is the “Armpit of Civilization.” It didn’t make the list at all, and that is no coincidence.

There is some good news, which is that Wheeling has the most abundant traffic in West Virginia. Parkersburg was the only other Mountain State city to make the list, and it placed almost dead last at No. 1,344. And our hometown trounced perennial arch-nemisis Wheeling, Ill., which didn’t even make the list, and it’s too far from Chicago to share in its No. 22 glory, says I. Speaking of proximity, Pittsburgh pulled down a No. 160 ranking, which isn’t too shabby. I have hope that one day the Fort Pitt tunnels will back up all the way to Wheeling, which would really propel the local ranking.

While we’re waiting for that to happen, there are some things that our local politicians should be doing to improve Wheeling’s prestige via traffic. Among them:

  • Add more unnecessary and unsynchronized traffic lights to National Road in the Elm Grove area. That new one at the I-70 exit ramp is a good start; it gets me almost every time.
  • Don’t make Main and Market streets two-way. Instead, just reverse the direction of Market so that it flows the same way as Main.
  • Open up the traffic light control box near Perkins so that the panhandlers can control the lights manually.
  • Set all of the 15 mph school zone lights to flash even on days when there’s no school [UPDATE: This one’s already done]
  • Duplicate the success of Oglebay’s Festival of Traffic by putting slow-moving tourist traps on other major state highways. Maybe a nightly fireworks show along River Road? Or a juggler on Kruger Street.

I know that if we all work together on this we can make significant progress in a short period of time. Let’s set a goal of at least outdoing No. 1,041 Fargo, N.D., by next year, shall we? OK, good. Now excuse me while I go release a deer herd on the Island.

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