Traffic nightmare

A friend sent me the news that things were not going so well on the highway last night.  OK, that's too polite.  A friend sent me a raging rant about what was not going so well on the highway last night.  Up to that point, I was enjoying my evening, reading my Kobo copy of The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach on the iPad.  I flipped over to Twitter - the place I go when I want to find out what's happening in the world - and discovered the world of pain that thousands of our residents were going through trying to get home after a hard day's work at site.

Based on the online chatter, it appeared that a stalled gravel truck may have been one of the major culprits in a situation that resulted in people getting home two, three, and even four hours after leaving their post at the plants.  Is it possible that it stalled at 2 pm and was still sitting in the same spot causing trouble six hours later?  It doesn't sound plausible, but all indicators are pointing to that conclusion.

"Not acceptable," said one resident, anxiously waiting for their spouse to get home to take their required medication.

To be clear, at this point, we have no verification of what really happened - all the factors that contributed to what turned into a slow crawl home for so many.  We only have hints thanks to numerous posts and tweets that were shared last night.  There is one side of the story, then there is the other, and somewhere between the two lies the truth.  This could have been a more complicated picture than it appeared.

People who were inching along, idling for hours, found themselves running on fumes.  More than several may have emptied their tanks and ended up pulled over, left helpless.  Others broke protocol, and illegally darted down the shoulders, desperate to get moving.

Folks who had neglected to use the facilities before shoving off for the day were biologically conflicted as they needed to relieve themselves but couldn't risk ducking into the ditch for fear that the traffic would start moving again.

Citizens rushing home to tap out for their spouse, babysitter or nanny were left to beg forgiveness and say good night to their kids over the phone.

Many were heading home for a welcomed meal and a little TV before going to bed as they had to be up at 4 am to return to work.  How do you think they were feeling as they rolled into their driveways at 9:30 and 10 pm?  Exhausted.  Frustrated.  Hungry.  Stressed.

We live, work and play in a culture of safety, and the picture I'm painting - based entirely on watching from a distance in the comfort of my home study in the downtown core, a short 5-minute drive from my work - is not safe, healthy or conducive to the quality of life our residents deserve.

I have no idea what exactly happened last night, or what, if anything, could have been done differently to have kept the traffic moving and mitigate the delays.  This could have been a perfect storm, a series of unfortunate events that combined to clog things up tighter than a drum.  Our job as elected officials is to get the information as to what exactly happened, and do everything we can within the limits of our resources to ensure it doesn't happen again.

One thing is certain:  we need to do this better.

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