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Policy as much to blame as planning in Atlanta snowjam

Posted: February 2, 2014 - 1:11am

Georgia’s inept emergency planning and terrible transportation policy was put on display for the entire nation this week when millions of motorists attempted to take to the road in the midst of a rare winter snowstorm.

I’m sure many of you know people whose normal commute transformed into a bad Irwin Allen disaster movie as miles of highways became frozen parking lots all around greater Atlanta. I have friends who were stuck in that mess for more than eight hours. Some people’s ordeals were twice that or more.

Naturally, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Gov. Nathan Deal have been made the goats in this debacle – and they do deserve their share of the blame, but not all.

Yes, some of this could have been avoided with some common-sense planning and prudent decision making, but this mess was a long time in the making. The recipe involves development policies that favor sprawl and one-note transportation planning, in which the solution to every problem is to build bigger, wider roads and more of them.

You already have a situation where it is normal for commuters to extend their drives by one or two hours on any given day. A hard rain during rush hour can turn Interstate 285 into one of Dante’s lower circles of hell. So, no one should be too surprised at what happened when a few million cars were combined with a couple inches of snow.

We are not Atlanta and never will be, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a few lessons about how to plan and develop our community, and how not to. The coming surge of growth at Fort Gordon is only going to accelerate the pressure on infrastructure and planning policy in Columbia County.

Thankfully, we have some leaders who are cognizant of these issues and mindful of what their decisions will mean to residents in years to come. It’s up to us to pay attention and make sure they know what kind of community we want live in and build for future generations.

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