CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston Police Chief Brad Rinehart said he wondered why the Trace Fork shopping plaza's landlord didn't hire his officers to direct traffic on Corridor G Feb. 9, which was the Saturday before a busy commercial holiday.
"Why don't they remember the week before Valentine's Day? Two years ago I can remember the same scenario," he said. "One year I got there and spent two hours in Dick's Sporting Goods."
Dozens of angry people called his police department to complain about having to wait for hours in traffic with cars lingering bumper to bumper. Some callers, fed up with the wait, parked their cars along U.S. 119 and walked to where they wanted to go.
Directing traffic along Southridge Centre, Dudley Farms Plaza and the shops at Trace Fork may seem like a cinch, but Rinehart said the process is more complicated than that.
The shopping plazas' landlord, THF Realty, must first contract with police officers and that's muddled more by Corridor G's tangled layout.
THF Realty is usually good about hiring a couple of officers to direct traffic on predictably congested days, Rinehart said. South Charleston officers directed traffic Saturday from noon until 7 p.m., he said.
Most days, Rinehart said he doesn't have the officers on staff to direct traffic there.
"We can enforce the laws in there but it's privately owned," he said. "I don't have the manpower to police the city and do that, too."
Also, officers tied up directing traffic are not preventing speeding or responding to crashes, he said.
"I'll be honest, we don't like doing that," Rinehart said. "And the [Division] of Highways doesn't like us shutting the Corridor down because it's a main thoroughfare."
Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said his department rarely sees contracts to direct traffic in the shopping plazas. Officers patrol up and down Corridor G, but they hardly interfere with shoppers.
"That's probably more of something the shops need to consider," he said.
The interweaving jurisdictions along Corridor G further confuse things.
Dudley Farms Plaza in Charleston includes Kohl's, Books-A-Million and Ryan's Steakhouse and the Southridge Centre includes Sam's Club, Walmart and Buffalo Wild Wings.
The Shoppes at Trace Fork, which includes Holiday Inn, Target and Best Buy, is in South Charleston.
Meanwhile, a planned access road to relieve Trace Fork congestion is currently stalled while state officials study traffic in the area.
The state bought property from the city of South Charleston to possibly build the entrance from the end of THF Boulevard next to the South Charleston Memorial Ice Rink and down a ridge, where it would connect with Jefferson Road near the city's public works department.
However, the access road is only in the beginning stages, Department of Transportation spokesman Brent Walker told the Gazette in December.
THF Realty, a Missouri-based company, owns properties in 17 other states.
Reach Travis Crum at travis.c...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.