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February 9, 2013

MA Governor: Driving ban 'worked out really well'

FRAMINGHAM -- Gov. Deval Patrick is standing by his decision to ban vehicles from Massachusetts roadways during the blizzard.

Patrick signed an executive order yesterday banning all vehicles from roadways starting at 4 p.m. The ban was lifted at 1 p.m. today on Nantucket and in parts of western Massachusetts and will be lifted statewide at 4 p.m.

"I didn't do it lightly," said Patrick during a press conference this afternoon. "This wasn't about coming down hard on people. It was assuring everybody, the drivers and the emergency response team, were as safe as possible. ... I think it worked out really well."

The governor spoke just after 1 p.m. at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Framingham. With the snow winding down, Patrick said utility crews were already out working across the state to restore power to the 413,000 customers in the dark as of noontime.

Patrick said southeastern Massachusetts was hit hardest by the storm. He said officials will continue monitoring coastal areas for flooding and asked residents to have patience as roads are cleared and electricity is restored.

"We have a lot of snow to dispose of," said Patrick.

With rain in the forecast over the next few days, Patrick also urged residents to safely remove snow from rooftops to avoid the threat of collapse.

The 24-hour driving ban applied to all roadways, including highways and secondary roads. Any one caught driving could have faced up to one year in jail and $500 fine, though area police departments reported few problems of unauthorized driving.

In the few cases where drivers violated the ban, area police officers issued verbal warnings instead of citations or arresting the violators.

Exceptions for the ban covered public utility and health care workers, delivery truck drivers and members of the news media.

A similar ban went into effect after the infamous Blizzard of 1978. Despite the ban being lifted at 4 p.m. today, state officials urged residents to stay off the roads to allow plows, utility crews and public safety officials to clear streets and restore power.

"This does not mean we're encouraging people to travel," said Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Richard Davey. "We're asking folks to use common sense if it's necessary to travel."

"Drivers and pedestrians have to exercise extreme caution," added Patrick. "Let those who are clearing the snow ... do their jobs with as little disruption and interruption as possible."

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