Better Winter Weather Planning Can Help Avert Next Transportation Crisis

The southeast U.S. is experiencing a second major winter storm in two weeks. During the last storm, metro Atlanta made headlines after its highway network was paralyzed from 3 inches of snow. After the storm in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution Op-Ed titled Better Planning Can Help Avert Next Crisis I recommended several changes such as allowing cities to enter into public-private partnerships with local businesses to treat and clear roads and creating a winter-weather advisory board to recommend decisions such as closing businesses and schools when a Winter Storm Warning is issued.

Thankfully, the state of Georgia and city leaders appear to be embracing both of these ideas. This week the city of Atlanta has teamed with private companies to treat and clear city roads while the state has established a Winter Weather task force and worked with school and business leaders to close before the storm arrived. The Legislature should also examine whether modifying legislation would encourage more cities to enter into PPPs for treating winter weather.

It is too soon to determine how Georgia will fare from this current storm. But the early returns are promising. When the snow and sleet started, roads were clear of traffic. And despite significant icing, roads have remained passable for emergencies.

The entire Op-Ed is available here. The first part of the Op-Ed is below.

Atlanta’s traffic congestion is bad enough when it is 75 degrees and sunny, but the entire nation has been watching just how awful it gets when we receive two inches of snow.

Clearly the region needs a better plan for winter storms. While the changes made after the 2011 ice storm helped by providing plenty of salt and snowplows this time, poor planning and policy decisions plagued the city this week.

Big storms are more than an inconvenience; they are an economic drain. Because the region couldn’t handle the weather, Georgia businesses are forecast to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, the negative publicity is a major black eye for the region. What Fortune 500 company wants to locate in a major metro area that cannot handle two inches of snow?

The first thing Georgia’s leaders need to do is stop blaming the weatherman. The state and city could create a winter weather advisory board of public sector, private sector and winter weather experts to help advise government officials on when and how to take action. Schools and non-essential government offices should close immediately when a winter storm warning of this magnitude is issued. While this may result in a few false alarms and an extra “snow day” every couple of years, it is a lot better than kids sleeping in buses.

The complete Op-Ed is available here.