WTOP: Va. Congresswoman: I-95 mess that stranded drivers for hours needs review


Tired and exasperated motorists trapped on Interstate 95 this week want to know why it took so long for help to come after being stranded on the icy highway.

Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger said that there needs to be a thorough review of everything that transpired during the winter storm that caused some people to be stuck for more than 24 hours.

“I think when we get people safely off the road, and everyone is able to return home, I do hope and expect that there will be [a] full, after-action report about what happened here,” Spanberger said in an interview with WTOP on Tuesday.

The Democratic lawmaker, representing the 7th District and part of the I-95 corridor, said she has heard from constituents about their extensive challenges in dealing with the gridlock.

“Everything that could go wrong in this scenario has gone wrong,” she said.

Spanberger’s Senate colleague, Sen. Tim Kaine, was one of the drivers stuck on the interstate for more than 24 hours.

Spanberger pointed to myriad factors that contributed to the mess on I-95, including the weekend weather before the storm in some areas was in the 60s and 70s. Rain and snow quickly fell and turned into ice overnight from Monday into Tuesday.

“Between the power outages, the lack of the ability to communicate with people on the roads — there’s been cell tower outages — it was really just a worst-case scenario in terms of the ability to monitor the traffic, the ability to be in touch with those who might be stranded,” she said.

Spanberger said the review needs to look at what happened and future preparation.

“Where were all of those turning points, where it just got worse?” she said. “And how can we be better prepared next time?”

Spanberger said federal resources should also be looked at, noting that while Virginia is the focal point, major crashes and weather issues on I-95 can affect travelers all along the East Coast.

Spanberger said she spoke briefly on Tuesday with Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine as she sought to find ways to help people.

The congresswoman said she felt that Valentine and her team were working hard to respond to the situation but cited the many challenges they were up against, including the refreezing of the highway.

“Even when they were able to start making some areas clear, there were additional stoppages and accidents,” Spanberger said.

She also praised Virginia State Police and first responders for their efforts to help deal with the situation.

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