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The Gridlock Guy- Doug Turnbull

  • I hope you’re not disappointed to learn that I write this column a few days before it posts. As I write this now, the Thanksgiving exodus has begun on the Atlanta freeways. In fact, I have just started anchoring our Triple Team Traffic coverage early, so I’m working in stereo. The Thanksgiving traffic stew is quite hearty. The corridor most predictably jammed this crazy travel day is I-75 in Clayton and Henry counties. I-75 in Cobb and Cherokee also is seeing its grind rise to a boil. Reversible Express Lanes border each of these freeways and still seem to either take a bad rap or almost completely go unnoticed altogether. » RELATED: Pay n Go Peach Pass available at Walgreens, CVS The I-75 Express Lanes south of town are arguably the best bargain on days like this. As the regular thru lanes winnow from four to three, traffic bottlenecks. As I write, I-75/southbound jams below Mt. Zion (Exit 233) and doesn’t break free until almost Hwy. 20/81 (Exit 218). That’s a normal thing to expect on holiday getaway days. I-75/northbound is grinding along from just above Locust Grove (Exit 212) to about Jonesboro Road (Exit 221). Peach Pass users along I-75/sb can elect to use the Express Lanes if they are heading southbound. In fact, the total trip from I-675 to where the lanes end at Highway 155 (Exit 216) is just under $2 right now. That couple of bucks is saving southside motorists between 20 and 30 minutes, as the toll lanes are wide open. A downside to the lanes is that they can only help one side of the interstate at a time. Currently, I-75/southbound is moving a bit better than northbound traffic, because of the extra capacity from the Express Lanes. This does leave inbound commuters up the creek, but they still can use Hwy. 42/23 between Locust Grove and Stockbridge as an alternate. I-75/northbound in Henry County will get Express Lane assistance when they reverse them in that direction. SRTA adjusts the reversals of the lanes based on holiday volume and typically leaves them southbound on both the south and north sides of town until midway through a holiday weekend. Then the State Road and Tollway Authority keeps those same lanes northbound for most of the second half of the heavy-travel extended weekend. That’s confusing and might not be exact enough for those trying to plan days in advance. SRTA officials sometimes gauge the backups and adjust the times to reverse the lanes. So the best bet when traveling I-75 north or south of Downtown Atlanta is to check the Peach Pass website for the status of the lanes. Under the “Using Peach Pass” tab on PeachPass.com, click on “Pricing” and then on “Live Toll Rates” on the right side of the page. Then choose the freeway you’re trying to take and highlight the different Peach Pass pricing signs with the cursor. Those same signs also show the direction the lanes are operating. Remember that the Express Lanes are truly meant for express trips — trips meant for several exits — and not the shorter, local trips. The South Metro Express Lanes really have only one midway entry/exit point, which is at Jonesboro Road. The lanes in Cobb and Cherokee on I-75 and I-575 have a few more, but not nearly as many exits as the regular freeway. So that adds an extra layer of planning to these trips. Make sure that your friends and family from out of state know that the Florida SunPass and North Carolina NC Quick Pass also work in the Georgia lanes, and the Peach Pass works in those neighboring states. Having this option in the back pocket could be a huge win for the road trip. Full trips in the I-75 South Metro Express Lanes are often less than a dollar. They’re not much more than that in even high travel periods, as demand sets the pricing and the lanes haven’t caught on as well on this side of town. The Northwest Metro Express Lanes normally do not cost more than a few dollars for full trips during rush hours, and while they have much higher demand, they have improved the toll-free lanes quite a bit. The I-85 HOT lanes are the oldest in the state (October 2011) and have the most usage and, thus, cost the most. But they also often provide an outlet for those trying to save a few minutes. The first step in preparation for any Metro Atlanta commuter is to go ahead and get a Peach Pass, even if the commute path never heads on freeways with those toll lanes. Have one for those random trips in those corridors, just in case. And then when the opportunity to drive on I-85 north of town or on I-75 on both sides of the city arises, check PeachPass.com for the pricing and for the directions the lanes are open. And, of course, be sure and follow along on 95.5 WSB and our Triple Team Traffic Alerts App to see if conditions are bad enough to take the lanes in the first place. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxmg.com.
  • Imagine your favorite Thanksgiving meal — all the tasty morsels and elements — placed in a nice spread on the holiday table. If you’re like me, you mix your food together a bit. I prefer using the mashed potatoes as a palette for the other stronger-tasting items. Get it just right. Now scrape your plate into the blender, the pumpkin pie, too. And pour in that wine, tea, cider, Coke, water — whatever you normally imbibe this joyous day. Pour in everyone else’s plates and cups also. Now set that blender on high; maybe pulse it a couple of times. Gross, right? » RELATED: Thanksgiving traffic: Here’s when (and when not) to travel in Atlanta Welcome to Atlanta traffic in the fourth quarter. Atlanta commuters have already faced tremendous challenges in recent times, as volume has ballooned at the height of the fall semester. The early darkness in the time change always adds insult to PM drive and prolongs the ride home. Horrible, long-lasting crash scenes have peppered the days. Major construction continues to kill weekend chill time. Earlier sunsets blind afternoon drives. Fall is a busy time and traffic reflects it. Bake in the pre-Thanksgiving exodus and the maps on the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App go dark red. Tradition (and data) shows us that Wednesday afternoon is the absolute worst time to travel for Thanksgiving. You’re better suited to try to leave town Thanksgiving morning (the roads are empty then) or earlier in the week. » RELATED: 8 mistakes to avoid with holiday travel in Georgia 2019 But Wednesday travel may be inevitable for some, so that means others of us can correct for the extra push. For those who have to work and are able to telecommute, this Wednesday is the perfect day for it. Many offices let out early anyway, so taking that half day in the home office would help alleviate some of the road pressure not just for holiday travelers, but for people (like yours truly) who have to work. Another reason Wednesday could be particularly awful for driving is the weather. WSB Radio meteorologist Kirk Mellish has been studying some models that indicate stormy weather east of the Rockies is very possible in this portion of the week. This forecast could change very easily, but even a probable likelihood of “just add water” to the Thanksgiving drive should change behavior. For the return trip, the Thanksgiving bounceback is usually the worst on Sunday afternoon and on the south side on I-75. Arm yourself with a Peach Pass to save time, as those Express Lanes stay cheap and are lightly used. The trick will be to make sure the lanes are open in the direction you’re traveling. Traveling back to town on Black Friday is better than trying the outer lying freeways on Sunday, when people are trying to return for the work week. Black Friday traffic around busy shopping areas will not be that bad on Friday morning. Sure, some will chase deals, but the rush to the malls for the door-busting deals is not nearly the event it was ten years ago. But as the gravy and football comas wear off late in the day Friday, the arteries around those busy shops (and quite possibly those of the shoppers themselves) will be clogged. Holiday shopping’s effect on the roads is more spread out and gradual. The change to Standard Time has been the first slap in the face to the evening commute, with drivers more drowsy and having to navigate in sunshine at a bad angle and then early darkness. I wrote about this two years ago, and the trend continues. Then extra shoppers jump in the mix and traffic devolves into that terrible ingredient mix from our opening paragraph. “By the time the (time change) transition wears off, holiday season is upon us, and there is more shopping traffic on the road,” Georgia Tech Senior Research Engineer Angshuman Guin said. Since a shopping-bound driver may not be as versed in their route as the everyday commuter in that area, tensions can arise, Guin said. “There is also the difference in aggressiveness between drivers, (which) leads to less efficient movement of traffic as well as causes safety hazards.” As people become more and more rushed or simply begin running more late, tempers flare. When motorists drive at a time or in an area that they are less familiar with, they are likely going to make moves that slow the flow even more. This can hold true for Thanksgiving travelers or holiday shoppers. Be patient. » RELATED: The best and worst times to drive and shop during Thanksgiving week We can’t just drive at the worst times and in bad conditions and then complain about the results. Telecommuting and adjusting departure times for Thanksgiving travel will help all parties involved. Exercising patience and scheduling those shopping trips outside of the last minute windows or the PM commute will also help achieve better results. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxmg.com.
  • At least there were several days to prepare. And Atlanta needed quite a bit of warning for one of the biggest traffic tie-ups of 2019, as word came four days before that both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence would visit the city. But even with several days’ notice, numerous news stories and pleas for forbearance, Friday, November 8th was a horrible date on the roads. And at least some of the backups were avoidable. » RELATED: President’s visit leaves massive delays on Atlanta interstates Trump would visit a fundraiser for Georgia Senator David Perdue at The Whitley Hotel (formerly the Ritz Carlton) in Buckhead, before speaking at the Black Voices for Trump rally at the Georgia World Congress Center. Pence would fly in an hour later to Dobbins AFB in Marietta and attend the rally before Trump. This meant two different contingencies would move at different routes and times. All of this added up to five different periods of closures on parts of I-285, GA-400, I-85, I-75, I-75/85 (the Downtown Connector), Cobb Parkway, Lenox Road, Peachtree Road, Piedmont Road, and Northside Drive. This list doesn’t include the entrance ramps along the routes and the closed overpasses to allow the motorcades to pass safely. These closures started occurring during the lunch hour, on a Friday, with bouts of rain threatening — in Atlanta. There were sets of very expected and unexpected consequences and closures between lunch and dinner that Friday. » RELATED: MARTA prepares for region’s first bus rapid transit line Typically, the Georgia State Patrol and GDOT HERO Units shut off interstates and exits just before motorcades start rolling. The consistency of when those closures start and how long they last varies. Both Trump’s and Pence’s arriving motorcades caused closures only on the roads they were on just before and just after they traveled those roads. For example, I-75/southbound in Cobb County stayed closed between Delk Road and I-285 until the motorcade exited I-75 onto I-285/eastbound. Then it re-opened. That was the standard for Pence’s arrival also. In the past, the WSB Traffic Team has seen closures begin far sooner and last longer. The protocol seems to vary, but the brief closures were the right way to do this. Law enforcement did not shut down GA-400/southbound, I-85/southbound, or I-75/southbound extremely long for Trump’s middle trip between Buckhead and Downtown Atlanta. And because the freeway was completely free of vehicles, the motorcade moved quickly and minimized the closure pain. This was not the case for Trump’s return trip. When Pence finished speaking and left town in the 3 p.m. hour, the motorcade strangely did not shut down the entire freeway for its trip. GSP blocked I-75/85/northbound only long enough to allow the motorcade onto the freeway and then released traffic. Trump’s exit more than an hour later was the opposite. GSP and HEROs starting shutting down I-75/85/northbound, I-75/northbound, I-285 in both directions, and Highway 41 around Dobbins well before Trump left the Congress Center. In fact, he was still on stage and had begun speaking off the cuff. So entire freeways ended up staying closed 20 minutes longer than needed during the 4 p.m. hour of a Friday rush hour. That is absurd. To add salt to the wound, our job as traffic reporters is far more difficult for each event of this type. First, the WSB Skycopter and many other aircraft are not allowed to fly in a 30-mile radius during the entire time. And then sometime during the Obama years, the Secret Service began forcing GDOT to disable all of its traffic cameras for security reasons. Soon after that, GSP began speaking in code or using different channels to communicate about the closures, so we couldn’t follow them on police scanners. All of this secrecy severely limits our ability to track exactly when and where the many closures are. The interruption of so much information just pours fuel on the fire of the big time delays. » RELATED: Metro Atlanta transit plan: Here's the project list We got around some of these difficulties by using a couple of different cameras stationed in key areas, and we also relied on the traffic flow data inside the WSB Triple Team Traffic Alerts App to see when closures began and ended and the delays behind them. We also got calls from our Traffic Troopers stuck in the backups. We staffed up early, broke into programming often, and took the time we needed to share what we knew and what to expect. If you needed to know the status of your likely terrible ride Friday, 95.5 WSB was the place to turn. But taking a diagnostic of such a stark set of closures shouldn’t be so difficult. The Secret Service being, well, secretive of some things is understandable. But disabling all traffic cameras is an unnecessary overreach and just adds to the problem. If they’re worried about anyone seeing the motorcade in real time, then they need to empty both sides of the roads, evacuate every building, and confiscate every smartphone. Not happening. And law enforcement was far too hasty in shutting down the freeways so far ahead of Trump’s departure. Could they not have waited for the speech to end? Traffic was going to be bad enough; it didn’t need to get any worse. The commuting public and employers could have done more to help their fates also. That fateful Friday was a perfect excuse to telecommute, take a half-day, or work flex hours Monday through Thursday. These aren’t options for many jobs, but a few thousand fewer cars on the roads still makes a difference. Many treated the day normally. And those who did not deserve praise. The procedures for handling the Trump and Pence arrivals seemed perfect; they were only as disruptive as necessary. Business returned to normal soon after the roads opened. But Trump’s departure back to Dobbins was a boondoggle. And not having cameras, real-time communications from law enforcement, and the WSB Skycopter left us tasked with helping people avoid these jams at a deficit. Consistency, sensible security, and better coordination need to be tenets of the next Air Force One or Air Force Two trips to Metro Atlanta. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxmg.com.
  • When we fly in the WSB Skycopter, we can get from place to place quickly, so we can spread the word about traffic problems quicker than anyone else. But one thing we can miss while deploying the airborne advantage is the detail that those on the ground can provide. Such has been the case at a heavily discussed intersection in west Cobb. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: How we decide where the WSB Skycopter flies Channel 2 Action News Cobb County Bureau Chief Chris Jose tweeted a tease to his story last Wednesday evening that caught my attention. Jose said that the intersection of Austell Road at Seayes Road had seen nearly two dozen wrecks in the past year. Considering how small Seayes Road is, that number is quite large. “Here’s the crazy part: Cobb County Police Precinct 2 is at the intersection,” Jose said in his story. He pointed out skid marks where a vehicle hit a building and narrowly missed a gas meter. I flew over a fatal crash with an overturned vehicle there on October 1st. When I saw Jose’s tweet, I was in the Skycopter in Cobb County and decided to swing by there and try to find what could be so dangerous or crash-inducing about that intersection. From above, we saw smaller, two-lane Seayes Road with a dedicated right-turn lane from Seayes/eastbound onto Austell Road/Highway 5/southbound. Nothing looked too out of the ordinary. The intersection has a traffic signal, something that is usually absent from dangerous intersections. South Cobb High School is just to the south of this, which could contribute to the amount of risky maneuvers and inexperienced drivers in the area. Our pilot, who served for decades as a police officer, did notice a slight hill on either side of the intersection, which could decrease the reaction time for drivers on both roads. Drivers see each other a bit later than if Austell Road were flat. This could play into what locals are requesting for the intersection. Felicia Hill-Spivey survived a crash at this crossroads earlier this year. While grateful there is a traffic light, she told Jose that drivers on Austell Road do not have a designated left-turn signal onto Seayes. “ It’s totally red or totally green. No in between. No flashing yellow,” Hill-Spivey said, as she shared photos of her wreck. Her crash occurred as she tried to turn left from Austell/southbound onto Seayes/eastbound, Jose reported. With nothing deterring or slowing oncoming traffic cresting and rolling down a hill, this does create a recipe for nasty crashes like hers. Jose said that Cobb DOT is going to begin doing a traffic study on the intersection; they did one three years ago also, but the study determined the intersection didn’t meet the standards for change then. One change Cobb and the state could consider is getting cars to slow down in the area. Austell Road has two wide lanes in each direction and a divided median. This creates conditions for cars to fly by in the area easily at 50 mph. Lowering the speed limit probably wouldn’t do very much. Narrowing the lanes could. Both concepts have been kicked around for City of Atlanta streets.  The county and the state are going to need to take more action at Austell and Seayes. With a high school so close and with so many wrecks taking place, there is obviously something wrong. Whether the intersection needs a left-turn signal, more signage, or even narrower lanes to decrease speeds, the status quo doesn’t seem acceptable. But decision-makers can’t be hasty either and need to do the proper study to arrive at the best solution. But they need to act. As Hill-Spivey said, “It could’ve been my life. And that’s something you can’t replace.” Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxmg.com .
  • We have been reminded this past week about what rain can do to a commute. Several rush hours last week were absolutely horrible, even absent of the many crashes on the wet pavement. The last thing Atlanta traffic needs is unforced errors, and one major pet peeve in that category is when people get in minor crashes and keep their vehicles in the roadway. I saw the yin and the yang of this concept on the Atlanta roads last Tuesday. RELATED: Atlanta's traffic mess: More solutions from our readers Georgia lawmakers addressed the issue, updating the “Steer It and Clear It” code most recently in 2010: “When a motor vehicle traffic accident occurs with no apparent serious personal injury or death, it shall be the duty of the drivers of the motor vehicles involved in such traffic accident, or any other occupant of any such motor vehicle who possesses a valid driver’s license, to remove said vehicles from the immediate confines of the roadway into a safe refuge on the shoulder, emergency lane, or median or to a place otherwise removed from the roadway whenever such moving of a vehicle can be done safely and the vehicle is capable of being normally and safely driven, does not require towing, and can be operated under its own power in its customary manner without further damage or hazard to itself, to the traffic elements, or to the roadway. The driver of any such motor vehicle may request any person who possesses a valid driver’s license to remove any such motor vehicle as provided in this Code section, and any such person so requested shall be authorized to comply with such request,” O.C.G.A. 40-6-275-c says. And if you worry about how this affects their fault in the crash, the law addresses that also. “The driver or any other person who has removed a motor vehicle from the main traveled way of the road as provided in subsection (c) of this Code section before the arrival of a police officer shall not be considered liable or at fault regarding the cause of the accident solely by reason of moving the vehicle pursuant to this Code section.” This is all the formal way to say this: The State of Georgia mandates that people in wrecks who can safely move their vehicles out of travel lanes do so. The State even encourages people to exit off of freeways safely and won’t penalize drivers for doing this before officers arrive. Of course, this efficient and considerate behavior isn’t always possible. Many vehicles are too damaged to move without assistance. When that is the case, people should wait inside their vehicles, however. Stepping out is awfully dangerous. Last Tuesday afternoon, the WSB Skycopter crew and I spotted a small wreck in the left lane of I-285/southbound (Outer Loop) near South Cobb Drive. I began telling the WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center about this and was very close to plotting the incident on the WSB Triple Team Traffic Alerts App. I thought this crash would be there for at least a few minutes, as the motorists had exited their vehicles. But just as we passed over it, the drivers hopped in their cars and left the scene. At first glance, this seemed like a good thing. They effectively steered and cleared their crash (though, technically, they should have reported the collision to authorities). But, they got out of their vehicles while still in a travel lane. This not only was dangerous, but they also held other people up. They could have steered their minimally damaged vehicles onto the shoulders and then decided to leave. They get a C-minus for their efforts. There are several reasons that people could be reluctant to move minor wrecks. First, moving across oncoming traffic to a shoulder is scary and difficult. But doing this in bad traffic is easier, since that traffic is moving slower. Another reason people could be reluctant to clear crashes is if they can move their car, but someone else in the crash cannot. If a car can move on its own, it should. Maybe they just shouldn’t move off onto an exit, so they can stay in proximity to the rest of the crash scene. Steering and clearing minor crashes from travel lanes isn’t just a friendly suggestion. Doing so is absolutely the law. And law enforcement should do a far better job in making sure people obey it. The last thing Atlanta needs is 25% of a four-lane interstate shut down by two people too lazy, paranoid, or scared to move. This is one reason why emergency lanes exist. Let’s start using them more for clearing crashes — not passing them.  » RELATED: GDOT tackles truck accidents on metro Atlanta highways Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxmg.com .

News

  • Another, separate malfunction of Takata airbags is prompting the recall of an additional 1.4 million vehicles. >> Read more trending news  The latest airbag problem has led to at least one death. Previous recalls were linked to at least 24 deaths worldwide. The faulty airbags use a propellant that can deteriorate over time when exposed to moisture and explode too fast or not fully inflate. Most of the recalled inflators use ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion and inflate the airbags. But the chemical deteriorates when exposed to high temperatures and humidity and can burn too fast, blowing apart the canister designed to contain the explosion. The ruptured inflator can cause metal fragments to strike the driver or passengers. Underinflated airbags can not properly protect passengers in an accident. A driver in Australia died as a result of the faulty airbags. Another driver in Cyprus was injured because of them. The number of affected vehicles in the United States is unknown. Many of the vehicles with the airbags were installed in the 1990s and are no longer on the road, officials said. BMW is warning drivers of some older 3-series vehicles to stop driving them. About 8,000 definitely have faulty inflators and should be parked, BMW said. Another 116,000 3-Series cars from the 1999 to 2001 model years can still be driven but will be inspected. BMW intends to replace faulty inflators with new ones. The company says owners will be notified when parts are available. The recall also includes vehicles built by Audi, Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi. Which models were not immediately known. Audi was trying to determine whether any 1997 to 1999 model year A4, A6, A8 or TT vehicles were affected. Toyota and Honda were working to determine which models had the issue. Mitsubishi indicated 1998 to 2000 Montero vehicles were impacted. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will ask Thursday for the drafting of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. >> Read more trending news  Update 12 p.m. Dec. 5: President Donald Trump slammed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday after she announced the House will move forward with articles of impeachment against him. “Nancy Pelosi just had a nervous fit,” Trump said. “She hates that we will soon have 182 great new judges and sooo much more.”  Pelosi told reporters Thursday that the president’s actions since being sworn into office left Democrats with “no choice but to act.” Pelosi previously declined to pursue articles of impeachment against Trump, but she said Thursday that the surfacing of a whistleblower complaint filed against Trump over the summer changed her mind. The whistleblower in August filed a complaint about concerns over Trump’s attempts to get Ukrainian officials to investigate one of his political rivals, former vice president and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden. Update 11:45 a.m. Dec. 5: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is speaking with reporters after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that the House will move forward with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Update 11 a.m. EST Dec. 5: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is speaking with reporters after announcing earlier Thursday that the House plans to move forward with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. Counsels for Republicans and Democrats will present impeachment evidence Monday at a 9 a.m. hearing, according to Politico and Axios. The Judiciary Committee will also hold a hearing to mark up the articles of impeachment, according to Axios. Update 9:50 a.m. EST Dec. 5: Officials with President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign slammed the decision announced Thursday morning by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to draft articles of impeachment against Trump. “The facts are uncontested,” Pelosi said at a news conference Thursday morning. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security.” Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for Trump’s 2020 campaign, said in a tweet that Democrats decided to impeach the president “over ‘feels’ not ‘facts.'” Campaign manager Brad Parscale accused Democrats of trying to “take the decision of who should be president out of the hands of voters.” “Impeaching the President has always been their goal, so they should just get on with it so we can have a fair trial in the Senate and expose The Swap for what it is,” he said. “Speaker Pelosi, Chairman (Adam) Schiff, and Hunter Biden should testify, and then we can get back to the business of our country.” Democrats have been building a case for impeachment against Trump based on his decision to ask Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of several Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination. Trump has denied any wrongdoing. Update 9:30 a.m. EST Dec. 5: White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats “should be ashamed” after the California politician announced plans to move forward with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.  “(Trump) has done nothing but lead our country - resulting in a booming economy, more jobs & a stronger military, to name just a few of his major accomplishments,” Grisham wrote Thursday morning in a tweet. “We look forward to a fair trial in the Senate.” Pelosi said Thursday morning that Trump’s decision to ask Ukraine for an investigation into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, were “a profound violation of public’s trust.” “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of national security by withholding military aid and crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival,” she said. Update 9:20 a.m. EST Dec. 5: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday morning that the House will move forward to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. “The facts are uncontested,” she said at a news conference Thursday morning. “The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security.” The announcement came one day after House Democrats held a closed-door meeting on impeachment, according to Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree. The House Judiciary Committee also held its first hearing Wednesday on impeachment. “Our democracy is what is at stake,” Pelosi said Thursday. “The president leaves us no choice but to act.” The historic announcement came as Democrats push toward a vote, possibly by Christmas. Original report: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will give an update Thursday morning on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. The California Democrat plans to make the announcement from the Speaker’s Balcony Hallway at 9 a.m. EST. On Wednesday, the impeachment inquiry moved to the House Judiciary Committee as three of four law professors considered experts in impeachment from across the country testified they believe Trump’s action toward Ukraine constitutes bribery. The three professors – Pamela Karlan, Noah Feldman and Michael Gerhardt – were called by the Democrats. The fourth professor testifying Wednesday, Jonathan Turley, called by Republicans, did not agree. House Democrats launched the inquiry in September to investigate whether Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter, and their connection to a Ukrainian energy company in exchange for an invitation to the White House and a military aid package. Read more here or here. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Disney has released the latest trailer for its series of remakes. This time “Mulan” is getting the live-action treatment. The film, which stars Yifei Liu in the title role, follows Mulan’s story as she takes the place of her father in the Chinese army, disguised as a man to fight to defend her country, CNET reported. >> Read more trending news  Watch the trailer below: The film, which will hit theaters on March 27, also stars Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, Jet Li as the emperor and Jason Scott Lee as Bori Khan.
  • A restaurant in Columbus, Indiana, is hoping to ease the issues for customers with dementia and their families. Amazing Joe’s has rolled out a new menu for Sunday afternoons called “Forget-Me-Not,” WISH reported. Nick Grams, the restaurant’s managing partner, had first-hand knowledge of the struggles dementia patients and their families have when going to restaurants. His mother died from the condition this year. >> Read more trending news  Grams said it was always a challenge between forgotten orders and loud noise. Once a month on Sunday afternoons, he will offer a quieter room with limited menus so dementia sufferers can enjoy dinner out, WISH reported. The menu has only seven items, many of them finger foods, The Tribune in Columbus reported. The staff has also received training on how to deal with their special customers. Grams told WISH that he hopes other restaurants follow his lead in Indiana. The town has also started an initiative that’s called Dementia Friends, The Tribune reported. The program was started by Thrive Alliance in an effort to help make the town more dementia-friendly. They’ve worked with first responders by training them on how to deal with someone with dementia during an emergency, the newspaper reported.
  • An Oklahoma man was arrested this week on two different felony charges after investigators say he knowingly transmitted HIV to at least two victims. >> Read more trending news  Court papers state Benjamin Whitney had consensual sex with the victims and didn’t tell them he had HIV. In one case, the victim reportedly said Whitney explicitly told him he was not infected with the virus. The victim didn’t know he had it until he started feeling ill shortly after their sexual encounter and was tested by the Tulsa County Health Department. In the second case, the victim reportedly didn’t know he had it until he was approached by others who told him he may want to get checked. Court papers state Whitney was diagnosed with HIV in 2014 and received counseling regarding his test results, so he was aware he had it. Whitney was charged in July and was arrested on Tuesday. Read more here.
  • College football's conference championships are set for this weekend, a day ahead of the announcement of the pairings of the upcoming bowl games. >> Read more trending news  Below is a list of championship games, what time the games start and on what channels. Friday, Dec. 6 · Pac-12 Championship: Utah vs. Oregon – 8 p.m. ET, ABC  Saturday, Dec. 7 · Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma vs. Baylor – Noon ET, ABC · Sun Belt Championship: Appalachian State vs. Louisiana – Noon ET, ESPN · Mid-American Conference Championship: Miami of Ohio vs. Central Michigan – Noon ET, ESPN 2 · Conference-USA Championship: UAB vs. FAU – 1:30 p.m., CBSSN · American Athletic Championship: Memphis vs. Cincinnati – 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC · Southeast Conference Championship: LSU vs. Georgia – 4 p.m. ET, CBS · Mountain West Conference Championship: Boise State vs. Hawaii – 4 p.m. ET ESPN · Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship: Southern vs. Alcorn State – 4 p.m. ET ESPNU · Big Ten Championship: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin – 8 p.m. ET Fox · Atlantic Coast Conference Championship: Clemson vs. Virginia – 8 p.m. ET ABC