With hurricane season officially kicking off Thursday, the Florida Department of Transportation has a new emergency evacuation plan for hurricanes.
During an evacuation with an exceptionally high number of people leaving at once, FDOT would allow the right shoulder lane for travel westbound along I-10.
If it's decided to utilize this plan during evacuation, FDOT in Tallahassee would consult with the Governor who would ultimately sign off on the plan.
FDOT officials have been reviewing their evacuation procedures for significant emergencies, including hurricanes.
During a mass evacuation, FDOT's plan in the past would have been to direct all I-10 traffic westbound, known as the Contraflow Plan. Instead, FDOT has decided it makes more sense to just open up the right outside shoulder lane.
Northeast Florida has never had to use the Contraflow Plan for a hurricane evacuation.
"We can set it up quicker with our folks, the other concepts are pretty labor intensive and all too so we can do this quicker," said FDOT spokesperson Ron Tittle.
If initiated during evacuation, the right shoulder would be opened up for travel beginning at the Cecil Parkway/State Road 23 exit, extending all the way to I-75.
However, there are some issues that need to be resolved. One potential problem is all the trash that accumulates on the right shoulder. According to Tittle, the shoulder would first need to be swept beforehand.
Another problem is the fact that the shoulder just isn't as wide as a regular travel lane. Drivers would need to travel at a lower speed, Tittle said.
"The shoulders are not as wide as the normal travel lanes, so you'd have to go at a lot less speed, no doubt. Of course, if you've got a lot of congestion, you're not going to be going that fast anyway," he said.
Other complications also come from some especially narrow shoulder lanes on overpasses and rumble strips. Tittle said they would work alongside law enforcement to make sure potential problem areas like those are safe.
During a press conference on the first day of hurricane season Thursday, Mayor Curry said the city works in close contact with FDOT during evacuations.
"Those decisions are made as you get closer to the threat, but they're being thought about now at the state level," said Curry.
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