Response to ‘Furlough Friday’ Arsenal Traffic Bungle

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- Traffic was backed up as far as two miles Friday morning because of furlough related delays for employees trying to get onto Redstone Arsenal.

Traffic was slow from Gate 9 all the way back to Zierdt Road and Madison Boulevard. Some commuters told WHNT News 19 they waited in traffic for upwards of an hour-and-a-half.

"They are just trying to prove sequestration is suffocating everything in the neighborhoods and it is," said one gentleman stuck in traffic.

"Surely they can come up with a solution that can alleviate a little of these traffic problems," said another.

WHNT News 19 decided to take action to try and find out exactly how Arsenal officials plan to help ease delays in the short term.

Congressman Mo Brooks says he spoke with Arsenal Garrison Commander Col. Bill Marks Friday morning regarding the sequestration fueled traffic pattern changes.

"You have to guess to some degree going into that situation where the traffic flows are going to be and try to allocate your personnel accordingly," explains Brooks. "Now that this data is coming in--actual traffic flows instead of estimated traffic flows--I anticipate things will be getting better form this point forward."

We asked Brooks if he could share any specific ideas he may have discussed with Col. Marks. Brooks referred us to the Garrison Commander for additional specifics other than what he had stated.

When WHNT News 19 contacted the arsenal we were told there was no one available or authorized to comment because Col. Marks was not in the office and all personnel with the public affairs department were on furlough.

Brooks says while he understands the frustration not only with the White House but with the system as a whole, he can do little more than speak on his track record of opposition to across the board cuts.

"First instance," says Brooks, "I voted against sequestration occurring--about a half-a-dozen times since then I have voted to eliminate sequestration."

Brooks went on to say he has met with House leadership to try to encourage them to allow voting on bills that will eliminate sequestration, something he says he will continue to do in the future.

"On the positive side," Brooks elaborated, "We were able to get votes just a month or two ago on a budget and on a National Defense Authorization Act that eliminates the impact of sequestration in the next fiscal year--that's big progress."

Brooks says whether it be the logistical issues or the adverse affects on weapons development, all aspects associated with sequestration are a concern to him.

"All of it is important," says Brooks, "The key is to get enough people in Washington D.C. elected who will vote to change it."

While Washington politicians concern themselves with overarching implications of the sequester, local law enforcement including state police are fully mired in the microcosm of the local logistical problems brought on by furlough.

State troopers and Huntsville police alike are increasing their vigilance around Arsenal gates in anticipation of frustrated driver show may be increasing their speeds to compensate for time lost in the traffic jam.

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"We're dealing with a little bit of impatience," says Alabama State Trooper Curtis Summerville. "There's an expectation that you go to work and you get there in a timely manner.  Leave a little early and give yourself time so if you are stuck in traffic you can kind of balance that out."

While Summerville admits alternate routes may not be ideal for a majority of commuters, he says on the whole a little common courtesy during this time of delays will go a long way.

"The thing to truly do is to be courteous to other motorists so that you don't cause issues in terms of road rage and things of that nature."

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