Gov. Rick Scott is directing the state Department of Transportation to implement changes to the way the state responds to evacuations and fuel supply needs during times of emergencies.
The action is in response to Scott’s order following Hurricane Irma last fall in which he directed DOT to begin examining ways to help expedite evacuation routes from the I-75/ Florida Turnpike Interchange near Wildwood to the Florida-Georgia border. He also directed transportation officials to address ways to increase fuel capacity during state emergencies.
The improvements DOT is adopting are based on the findings of these reports.
“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 a news release Friday morning. “ 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.”
DOT’s short-term evacuation-related improvements to be implemented no later than June calls for the expansion of Emergency Shoulder Use lanes along key interstate routes. The use of shoulder lanes would expand the capacity of major highways during evacuations.
Other short-term evacuation improvements call for the installation of cameras and message signs on I-75 from Ocala to the Georgia state line, as well as improving the department’s 511 website to better accommodate increased usage during emergencies.
Long-term evacuation improvements call for the completion of the I-75/Turnpike interchange construction in 2019, in addition to beginning construction to widen the Turnpike to six lanes from the Lake/Sumter to the CR 468 interchange in 2023 and from the CR 468 interchange to I-75 in 2025.
DOT will also study the deployment of traffic management tools along US 19/98/27 to help with capacity during evacuations.
As far as short-term fuel-related improvements, Scott has directed DOT to start working no later than July with the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) and law enforcement to identify critical gas stations along state evacuation routes and plan for more efficient fuel service during emergencies.
DOT will also assess options for expanding fuel capacity at existing department owned facilities for first responders; and, coordinating with other states on a communications plan on the movement of oversize and overweight vehicles during emergencies.
Long-Long-term fuel-related improvements call for the assessment of options for additional fuel storage and dispensing at fuel terminals in collaboration with Florida Ports and the fuel industry.
The governor’s call for improving evacuation and fuel capacity systems followed a mass evacuation in the days leading up to Hurricane Irma, which made two landfalls in Florida back in September, and causing a massive run on gas stations that left many people without fuel.
“These improvements will ensure that Florida continues to be a national leader in emergency management and solely focused on keeping families safe,” Scott added.
To view the full FDOT reports, please see the links below: