Following chaotic Hurricane Irma exodus, Florida plans to improve evacuation routes, gas supply
By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
February 19, 2018, 9:36:28 AM EST
Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently announced he will be directing the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to implement fixes to improve the state’s hurricane evacuation routes, as well as improving fuel supplies.
When Florida residents tried to evacuate and return home from Hurricane Irma, many were faced with blocked roads due to stranded cars, traffic jams and gas shortages.
The traffic and fuel shortages in Florida during the evacuation of Hurricane Irma made roadways resemble parking lots instead of highways, which made the Department of Transportation and Scott analyze the current evacuation methods and routes.
“As Florida continues to recover from Hurricane Irma, the largest storm to impact our state in modern history, it is critically important that we continue to do all we can to make sure our state is fully prepared in the face of any potential disaster," Scott said.
In October 2017, one month after Irma blasted Florida, Scott asked state transportation officials to explore ways to better expedite the outbound traffic and fuel services for the next severe event. On Friday, Feb. 2, FDOT released two reports on ways to alleviate those delays and gas shortages.
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"Last fall, I directed FDOT to examine ways to improve evacuations and fuel capacity and following the completion of these reports, I have directed the agency to implement short- and long-term improvements that will help protect our families and visitors," Scott said.
The proposed projects will include long-term construction at the turnpike interchange where it intersects with I-75 by 2019, and starting to widen Florida’s Turnpike between the Lake and Sumter county line, CR 468 interchange and I-75.
Those improvements will be accompanied by studying how to manage emergency evacuations along the U.S. 19/98/27 route as well as working with Florida ports and fuel companies on how to store and distribute fuel.
Scott announced he wants FDOT to study ways the state could speed up the section of northbound I-75 from the interchange in Wildwood, where the Turnpike merges with the interstate, to the Florida-Georgia line.
The 144-mile stretch takes about 2 hours to drive under normal circumstances, but during the Irma evacuation, motorists reported being stuck for hours bumper to bumper. Gov. Scott hopes to fix that issue before the next possible disaster.
"These improvements will ensure that Florida continues to be a national leader in emergency management and solely focused on keeping families safe," Gov. Scott said.
The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will officially begin June 1, 2018, and the department is expected to implement short-term improvements no later than July 2018, while the long-term improvements are set to be implemented at the direction of Scott.
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