The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) says it is in possession of an independent review of what caused a days-long traffic jam on I-95 in January.
“VDOT’s top priority is and always will be the safety of the traveling public, and as we learn from each event, this report highlighted key areas for us to refine in our winter-weather operations,” said Virginia Commissioner of Highways Stephen Brich according to a press release. “Our on-road messaging, snow-clearing resource staging and partner engagement are all areas in which we are exploring new approaches to improve our response. Above all, we remain committed to better executing our mission of keeping Virginia’s transportation system safe every day and in the face of future extreme weather events.”
The review was conducted by CNA Corporation, an analysis and research nonprofit located in Arlington.
“The collective insights and findings of this independent report are being thoroughly reviewed by [Virginia State Police] leadership,” Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police (VSP) superintendent said. “Having this external perspective of state police’s response and management of this significant incident greatly benefits our agency’s ability to adapt, adjust, and improve our services and mission to ensure a safe and secure Commonwealth.”
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) joins VDOT and the VSP in reviewing the analysis.
A jackknifed tractor-trailer, which caused several more accidents, began the early January gridlock.
The jam lasted for about three days, leaving motorists stranded with no way to exit the highway. In snowy and cold conditions, the situation became dangerous.
Former Gov. Ralph Northam (D) blamed motorists for the hazardous traffic.
“We gave warnings, and people need to pay attention to these warnings, and the less people that are on the highways when these storms hit, the better,” Northam told The Washington Post at the time. ““We all need to be clear that this was an incredibly unusual event,” he said.
Snow is common in northern Virginia in January.
VDOT promised the analysis that was released Friday.
“Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran have requested the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Virginia State Police (VSP) and Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) to include a comprehensive timeline of events in the multi-agency after-action review already underway to address performance gaps and identify ways to mitigate the challenges faced during this incident,” it said in a statement after the jam cleared up. “Upon finalization of this report, there will be a media advisory.”
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Pete D’Abrosca is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].