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Olympics Nightmares Possible for Travelers, Cargo

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 9, 1996 – Department of Defense traffic managers are concerned about the potential for travel and shipping nightmares throughout the southeastern United States because of the Olympics in Atlanta July 21 through Aug. 4.

They predict filled hotel rooms, impossible airline reservations, no rental cars, little housing and huge traffic gridlock.

"As DoD's traffic managers, we're interested in how the Olympics will impact our normal movement of personnel and equipment," said Tom Ogles, chief of the Military Traffic Management Command's Olympic Support Center in Falls Church, Va., said.

This includes personnel on permanent change of station, temporary duty, group moves of recruits and active duty personnel. Equipment includes munitions, supplies, food and personal property of military members and civilian employees and families. Ogles said he is also concerned about timely shipment and delivery of privately owned vehicles.

The Atlanta Olympic Committee estimates up to 600,000 more people per day in the Atlanta area during the summer games and another 120,000 per day during the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics will be held two weeks after the summer games -- Aug. 16-25.

Military training typically escalates during the summer. "July and August is a prime training time for Army and Marine Corps recruits," Ogles said. "It's also a prime training time for active duty personnel of all military services within the region. About 25 percent of the forces in the United States are located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

"We normally move between 75,000 and 85,000 people -- recruits, other trainees, permanent change of station and temporary duty -- into, within and out of the southeastern United States in July and August," Ogles said.

Swelling the throng of people in Atlanta for the Olympics are several thousand National Guardsmen, reservists and active duty personnel on DoD's Olympic Joint Task Force at Fort McPherson. They are responsible for direct support of people and equipment to the Olympics in Atlanta and other locations, he said.

"The worst-case scenario is to have people stranded in Atlanta and surrounding areas," Ogles added. "Airlines scheduled additional flights, but they're already heavily booked."

Atlanta is the transportation hub for the trucking, railroad and airline industries for the southeastern United States. It's also a major international hub for DoD passengers to and from Europe and Panama.

To avoid problems, officials recommend using alternative transportation hubs at Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.; Charlotte, N.C.; Jacksonville, Fla., and New Orleans.

The expected heavy traffic congestion could hamper pick-up and delivery of household goods and baggage in the Atlanta area, causing hardships for military travelers.

Atlanta officials are trying to alleviate traffic problems by establishing restrictive zones in major portions of the city between midnight and 6 a.m. Also, other major routes will be affected because of heavy traffic and road closures for Olympic events, such as bicycling.

"We're not going to inconvenience our customers by arranging pick-up and delivery of household goods and baggage during those early morning hours," he said. "We'll conduct as much business as we can during normal business hours.

Traffic management officials asked the military services to consider transferring incoming and outgoing personnel to the Southeast before or after the Games. They also advise travelers not to take space-available flights into the Atlanta area.

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