Atlanta mayor: Early city exodus crippled traffic

Posted at 8:46 AM, Jan 29, 2014

(CNN) — Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Wednesday defended his government’s handling of a snow shower that crippled traffic and left motorists stranded for hours a day earlier, and laid part of the blame on local businesses, saying they contributed to the gridlock by letting workers leave at the same time.

Schools and businesses, he said, let people go at roughly the same time early Tuesday afternoon as the snow was starting. That was too much for the roads to handle, he said.

“I said immediately yesterday that releasing all of these folks was not the right way to go,” Reed said in a sometimes testy exchange with CNN’s Carol Costello on “CNN Newsroom” on Wednesday morning. “… If I had my druthers, we would have staggered the closures.”

Roughly 2 inches of snow left the roads icy, making virtual parking lots out of roads and highways. Many people, including students on school buses, were stranded in vehicles overnight.

At a Wednesday morning news conference, Reed said Atlanta city road crews began pretreating streets at 9 a.m. Tuesday, ahead of the day’s snowfall. He said city crews — which have 30 spreaders and 40 snowplows — have finished treating “priority 1” areas such as bridges and exits, and their current focus is helping state crews clear the freeways.

He told Costello the road treatment has been better than in January 2011, when “the city was closed for two to three days” because of a winter storm.

“The city didn’t even have snow equipment in the last storm,” Reed said. Now, he said, besides the spreaders and snowplows, the city has a crew that has “been working nonstop in 12-hour shifts.”

At the news conference, Reed said 791 vehicle accidents — “14 with injuries” — have been reported in the city since Tuesday’s snowfall. He said city firefighters have supported 115 people, including stranded motorists.

Asked what he wanted to say to parents of children who stayed in schools overnight after Tuesday’s snowfall, he said: “What I want to say to them is hold off on trying to get to them. What I can assure (you of) is they are safe.”

He added: “The safest place for them was in the school system. … I know it is very tough, but we’re going to make sure we’re going to get the roads open. … But right now, we (need people to stay off the roads).”

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