Hall, Gainesville delaying start of school Friday due to threat of icy roads
Hall County and Gainesville districts are delaying the start of school Friday, Feb. 21, due to concerns of icy roadways.
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Road-clearing program that includes Hall renewed for two years
Jeff Garrett closes the Willard Wrecker Service emergency response unit. The wrecker service must carry any piece of equipment it may need to work the scene of a wreck.

Willard Wrecker Service in Buford has yet to work any Hall County wrecks related to a state road-clearing program.
But its president, Jimmy Willard, said he stands ready, if called.

“Once the time comes, and they call us directly, we’ll have to do the job,” he said.

Willard Wrecker is one of the companies certified to participate in Georgia’s Towing and Recovery Incentive Program, which began a new two-year commitment Tuesday to an emergency response area in metro Atlanta.

The program pays heavy-duty towing and recovery companies bonuses for quickly clearing large commercial vehicle “incidents” on major roadways, including Interstate 985 to Spout Springs Road, or Exit 12, in Flowery Branch.

New TRIP routes include expansion along I-75 north, I-20 west, I-20 east and I-85 south, said Jeff Corbin, marketing coordinator for Delcan, a engineering, planning, management and technology firm that co-sponsors the program.

The program traces to 2006, when the Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Task Force developed ways to improve the management of traffic incidents.

Before the towing program was started, wrecks and other incidents in Atlanta roadways could block traffic for hours.

“One of (TIME’s) several high-priority recommendations ... was to quickly and safely remove large vehicle incidents from the roadways in a timely manner,” states the TRIP website.

Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and TIME board member, said he believes the program’s presence in Hall is warranted.

“Exit 12 going south ... has become a high-volume corridor, and we know there’s a lot of trucks and commuters on the (road),” he said.

In addition to inconvenience to motorists, long roadway delays have other effects, said Blackwood, a Gainesville resident.

“When a road is completely stopped, the economic cost in lost job time is extremely high,” he said. “The other thing we’re trying to avoid is secondary crashes — either when it happens or in stop-and-go traffic.”

Willard said the program requires that he has two trucks, another response vehicle of some type and a long list of equipment, including cutting torches and generators, as well as street signs and traffic cones. Plus, drivers need to be certified by the program.

Wrecker companies must be able to arrive at a scene within 30 minutes weekdays and 45 minutes on weekends and nights.

“Once you get the notice to proceed, you’ve got 90 minutes to clear the travel lanes,” Willard said. “If you get (vehicles) off the road and the travel lanes are cleared, you can work off the side of the road. But traffic has got to flow.”

Companies that meet deadlines get a $2,500 bonus — $3,500 if extra equipment is involved, he said.

“It’s all about the clock,” Willard added.

Overall, the program seems like a worthwhile endeavor, he said.

“It has really helped traffic. When you get trapped, you’re trapped — you can’t go anywhere.”

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