Florida doesn’t plan to turn portions of highways into all one-way traffic when evacuation orders are issued for Hurricane Dorian.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state has cleared shoulders on interstates and highways and will lift tolls as evacuations orders are issued. But implementing a process known as “contraflow” isn’t currently being considered.
The reason: All one-way traffic could interfere with storm preparation.
“We’re not doing that, certainly at this time, because we’re still bringing in things,” DeSantis said while appearing at the Orange County Emergency Operations Center. “We’re bringing in fuel. We have utilities pre-positioning assets. So, there are a lot of things coming into the state to be able to help fight the storm.”
The idea of turning highways into one-way roads to help with hurricane evacuation has long been debated in Florida.
When state lawmakers considered the issue during the 2018 legislative session as part of a review of Hurricane Irma, Department of Transportation officials warned that contraflow would require increased law enforcement at each interchange, limit the ability of relief operations and fuel trucks to travel into impacted areas and cause backups where lanes merge as contraflow comes to an end.
Lawmakers still went forward with the idea, but then-Gov. Rick Scott, vetoed $750,000 from the 2018-2019 budget that would have led to the Department of Transportation conducting at least three exercises using contraflow lanes to determine if they could speed evacuations.
Scott wrote that “traffic engineers and experts, as well as law enforcement, have determined through experience, review, and simulation modeling that contraflow is not an effective disaster evacuation method.”
Meanwhile, as Dorian looms in the Atlantic, DeSantis said Florida Highway Patrol troopers have been directed to escort fuel trucks from ports to gas stations.
“What we’ve found in places like South Florida, you’d have massive lines and the fuel trucks couldn’t get in,” DeSantis said.
Fuel demands have been creating shortages at stations across the peninsula as Floridians fill up their tanks in anticipation of Dorian’s landfall early next week.
GasBuddy.com on Friday afternoon posted that more than 50 percent of stations were without fuel in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce, Fort-Myers-Naples and Gainesville markets. The Tampa-St. Petersburg and Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne markets were at 35 percent and higher.
An executive order DeSantis signed Wednesday lifted restrictions on hours of service and truck weights for fuel trucks, due to the reports of high demand for gas.
Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia also have waived weight requirements for fuel trucks at Florida’s request.
Tropical-storm force winds from Dorian are expected to reach Florida by Sunday morning, with hurricane winds hitting Tuesday morning, according to a National Hurricane Center forecast Friday afternoon.
The “cone of probability,” which offers a general idea of where Dorian could make landfall, stretched Friday afternoon from the lower Florida Keys into South Carolina, though it was centered around the Treasure Coast. After landfall, the storm is expected to linger in Florida for a day as it travels up the East Coast.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida