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DOT says it is committed to learning from storm mistakes

ATLANTA — Transportation officials praised the department’s “valiant” response to last week’s snow and ice, but admitted that lessons were learned during the week-long struggle to clear roads.

“There were 2,000 employees working 12-hours shifts nonstop from Sunday (Jan. 9) to Friday (Jan. 14),” said State Transportation Board Chairman Rudy Bowen, who lives in Gwinnett. “They were working in very dangerous conditions to serve this state. Theirs was valiant public service and I thank them for their sacrifice and commitment.

“We had some challenges; things that didn’t go as well as we would have liked. We acknowledge that and are committed to learn from it.”

Transportation Commissioner Vance Smith said several strategies are being discussed to improve any future responses, including increasing the use of private contractors’ equipment and employees, staggering shifts, adding stockpiles of salt and gravel at strategic locations and enhancing coordination with local governments.

In all, state DOT workers spent 70,000 hours on the situation and spent $5.5 million trying to relieve the snow and ice on 15,000 miles of federal and state highways.

“Our employees did everything they possibly could,” Smith said in a press conference Wednesday. “Only 48 hours after the storm ended, 99 percent of our roads were at least passable. But we know we can improve our overall response. We always try to improve.”