'Worst Commute Since 9/11': Blizzards' Wrath Lingers from Washington to Philadelphia

It's been nearly two weeks since "Snowmageddon" left the nation's capital and much of the Mid-Atlantic region paralyzed -- and the region's notoriously-congested roadways are still a mess.

Commutes that typically take 20 to 30 minutes have been lasting hours in some cases, not because of ice or snow-packed roads but because of narrow, crowded ones, pinched by crusty mountains of piled-up old snow.

VIDEO: The snow keeps falling, even on residents of Americas southeastern states.
No Escaping Winter's Grasp

Last Friday, days after the snowstorms ended, drivers in the Washington area had commutes called "nightmarish" by AAA Mid-Atlantic. Drivers complained about "one of the worst commutes in the Washington area since 9/11" – when lane closures and tight security brought traffic to a halt.

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Elsewhere along the northeast corridor, there have been similar scenes of unusually gridlocked city streets and highways, frustrating drivers from Baltimore to Philadelphia.

"We're having lane reductions because our main arteries aren't plowed curb to curb," said Kathy Chopper with the Baltimore Department of Transportation. There was so much snow "instead of a snow-plowing operation it's become a snow-hauling operation," she said.

The painfully slow cleanup and ensuing traffic problems from the two record-breaking snowstorms continue to reflect the economics and politics of snow, experts say.

Typically modest annual snowfalls in the Mid-Atlantic aren't enough to justify local government investment in fleets of snow-clearing equipment, leaving many to turn to contractors when storms hit.

But the pool of contractors with snow plows is limited, forcing city governments to fight for their services ahead of impending storms.

"You have to line them up early because you're competing with Maryland and Virginia," said D.C. Transportation Department spokesman John Lisle.

Some contracted crews, which usually perform construction hauling by day, often lack the experience pushing and "shaping" snow effectively along roadways as their northern state counterparts do.

Snow Removal: Some Cities Struggle, Others Get Creative

And when the snow can't be pushed aside any further, it has to be scooped up and hauled away -- something cities say has been their biggest and most time-consuming challenge following the recent storms.

The result has been brewing outrage in many communities, as local transportation agencies scramble to chip away at lingering snow islands that create choke points on roadways throughout several of the nation's busiest cities.

Lisle told ABC News he believes the much of the blame for the situation rests with Mother Nature, "but that's not how other people see it," he said.

Lisle admits the nation's capital could have done some things a little more quickly, like bring in the heavy equipment to start the snow-hauling sooner, but in the end the region has done the best it could.

"If people expect that every major road in the city is going to get back to normal less than a week after a blizzard – and two blizzards in five days – then I'm not sure that's an expectation we're going to meet," said Lisle.

Still, it may be hard to readjust expectations when other cities make snow-clearing look easy with their sometimes creative and sophisticated methods.

New York City equips its fleet of hundreds of city sanitation trucks with plows. It also uses a system of 20 giant snow-melting machines to turn tons of the white stuff instantly into water.

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