Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director Charley English said in a press conference today that Atlanta’s roads were not gridlocked very badly around 3:00 pm yesterday. At the same press conference, Governor Nathan Deal immediately disagreed. This exchange is symptomatic of the poor leadership and even worse policies that combined to trap many Atlantans on the roads and in their cars for going on 20 hours now.
Google Maps’ traffic overlay colored many roads in Atlanta, especially around I-285 and north on I-75 and I-575, with its worst red-and-black designation for travel times around noon. Here’s a picture I took looking across West Peachtree Street at 14th Street yesterday just after 12:30:
West Peachtree wasn’t clogged then, but just to the west Spring Street was barely moving, as were 14th Street and Northside Drive. The Connector looked like a parking lot. I left for home just after taking that picture. I made it seven hours and twenty minutes later.
I journeyed about nine miles to Cobb County on Northside Drive. Along the way and over all that time, I only saw one government official, a police officer directing traffic at the intersection of Northside Drive and Kingswood Lane.
State officials have said repeatedly that they haven’t been able to treat roads because of all the traffic, but along large stretches of my route (on a major thoroughfare), the southbound lanes were open and freezing over. The northbound lanes were bumper to bumper but staying mostly thawed because of all the cars. Unfortunately, no one was out treating or clearing those open lanes, and no one was managing the traffic, maybe allowing some northbound traffic over into the other lanes to let things clear out quicker.
Simply no management of the traffic was present. I spent a lot of time at an intersection with a traffic light where, for my direction, green only lasted for about seven seconds. Only one car, at best, could get through that light. Someone directing traffic could have improved the situation.
As the day wore on and the sun set, my lane started getting some icy patches. The situation deteriorated. All the way home, I didn’t see anything that looked like sand or ice on the roads (again, on a major thoroughfare).
The roads closest to my home were completely snowed over. Drivers abandoned cars on the sidewalks, but people with flashlights directed drivers to clear spots on the road. They weren’t wearing uniforms, so I assume they were just people who lived nearby rather than police.
Bless my little Ford Fusion. It got me safely across the snow and ice all the way home. Sadly, I can’t say the same thing about the leaders of the state and city.
As evidenced by the picture above, conditions weren’t really that bad when, nevertheless, traffic became insufferable. Then, things became impossible, but as CNN’s homepage screamed at one point today, this didn’t have to happen. It’s the culmination of Republican policies that caused this madness.
Years of ideological cuts to government have left agencies ill equipped, under staffed, and incapable of dealing with events as they happen. Further, the refusal to improve infrastructure and to invest in world-class people movers that would constitute a true alternative transportation system a city like Atlanta deserves left commuters no choice but to flock to roadways that are woefully inadequate to service the metro area’s current population. Finally, the woeful state of labor relations, in which workers have almost no power and employers exercise little respect for the employees, forced people to add to the congestion because employers refuse to acknowledge the reality that some times people need the day off.
Republican’s have been asking for this situation. Atlantans have government off their backs! The biggest problem in Atlanta wasn’t the weather. The biggest problem is that the state and city simply weren’t able to manage what was really an insignificant snowfall, just a couple of inches.
One of my friends called this mess yet another “snowpocalypse.” I said, “no, it’s a Repubocalypse.”