Emails: Ga. highway division chief also stuck in "snow jam"

by: Justin Gray Updated:

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WASHINGTON - State and local leaders were not the only government officials blindsided by Atlanta's epic January snowstorm.
 

Federal highway officials stationed in Atlanta apparently were just as surprised by the winter wallop that turned interstates into abandoned car lots, according to emails obtained by the Channel 2 Action News’ Washington bureau using the Freedom of Information Act.
 
Rodney Barry, the Georgia division chief of the Federal Highway Administration, was stuck in the mass traffic himself late into the night.
 
"Rodney is currently in his car trying to make his way home, a trip that has taken him several hours," Deputy Administrator William Farr said in an email to the head of the agency in Washington at 11:03 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28.
 
The next morning federal highway staff learned their boss wasn't the only one with a commuter horror story to tell.
 
"By 8 p.m. we'd accounted for our staff although it took one employee 8 hours to get home! I guess I was lucky it took me 4 hours," according to an email from one federal highway employee.
 
A highway administration agency spokeswoman in Washington said it is the job of state and local governments to coordinate traffic and snow removal.
 
But one email says the agency assigned someone to "work closely" with the Georgia Department of Transportation's traffic management center during the storm.
 
Another email to Barry from an attorney at the Georgia division asked if he had been consulted about highway on-ramp closings.
 
She said Georgia needed a researched and written out emergency plan for transportation.
 
Once the storm began to pass, emails show federal highway staffers began looking into what went wrong on Atlanta's roadways.
 
Federal Highway Administration Executive Director Jeff Paniati wrote, "Sounds like a huge mess ... My guess is there will be significant after storm questions on snow traffic and management. We should use it as an opportunity to help GDOT improve their approach to system management and operations."



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