Virginia Rep. Spanberger wants full probe by fellow Dem Gov Northam on 'egregious' interstate backup

The Democratic Rep. running for re-election in a swing district is hitting out against the emergency response to the 'catastrophe' on I-95

Updated: January 7, 2022 - 12:10pm

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Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger is calling for a full investigation into how commonwealth officials handled the 48-mile backup this week on Interstate-95, which left some motorists stranded overnight. 

In a letter sent Wednesday to fellow Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam and incoming GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Spanberger expressed "grave concerns over the immense and egregious delays along Interstate 95" and asked both administrations to conduct a full-scale investigation. 

The late-developing, fast-moving storm dumped about 10 inches of snow Monday on the Mid-Atlantic region and resulted in slick roads along much of the East Coast. The interstate backup in Virginia quickly became as long as 48 miles. 

Spanberger, who represents a swing district that she has won twice but will again be hotly contested in 2022, encouraged the current and incoming administrations to launch an "After Action Report detailing the events, decisions, factors, and challenged leading up to and following the storm, with a full accounting of what went wrong and what went right." 

A Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman said Wednesday the agency is already planning to conduct an "exhaustive after-action" review of the incident. 

"As the governor has said repeatedly, he recognizes the fear and frustration of these drivers and is deeply grateful to the first responders for ensuring there were zero injuries," spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky said. 

The unprecedented backup began Monday when a truck on the highway jackknifed and stopped traffic. 

Among those trapped overnight Monday into Tuesday were "families with infants, Virginians on their way to parents' funerals, and commuters just trying to get to or home from work," Spanberger said. 

"During this ordeal, they reported receiving no guidance, information, or support for hours; as they attempted to ration gas, stay warm, and calm their scared children," she also said.

Northam, with just days remaining before he leaves office on term limits, would not be the first elected-official undone by snow-storm preparation and response. 

In 2010, Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, a Democrat, was criticized for his handling of record-snowfall storm in the nation's capital including complaints that he didn't move fast enough to prepare for a storm, predicted days in advance, and that he took until Sunday to say that schools would open the next day, just to then retract the statement, according to ABC News.

A previous D.C. mayor, Marion Barry Jr., was widely criticized in January 1987 when he failed to respond quickly to a storm that hit the nation's capital. While residents were digging themselves out of the slush, Barry was attending the Super Bowl in Los Angeles. 

John Lindsay, who served as New York City's mayor from 1966 to 1973, faced major backlash for giving Manhattan preferred treatment, and abandoning Queens, in the snow-removal process during a storm that hit the city in February 1969, ABC News also reports