Emergency Transportation Operations

Highway Evacuations in Selected Metropolitan Areas: Assessment of Impediments

Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas

#5-Most Congested
#4-Population (6,300,000)
INRIX® National Traffic Scorecard 2009

map of Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas

The Plan

The Texas DOT (TxDOT) does not have a mass evacuation plan for the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. In 2007, the North Central Texas Council of Governments for the Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) region hosted a workshop to discuss evacuations and incident response. Participants did not produce a plan since they concluded that citizens would be better to shelter-in-place rather than on the freeway system. The city's plans for large events with sufficient advance notice such as a hurricane work well, but short-notice, localized incidents would be difficult to plan for in advance.

Respondents noted that based on potential threats endemic to the region, emergency officials would rather have people shelter-in-place. For example, a high wind event (e.g., tornado) constituted the most serious concern to DFW responders, and they would rather residents stay home in their basements than be out on the road in their cars. During the interview, DFW officials also commented that they do not see a need for contraflow plans or operation in the region. They said that it would not be clear which direction to push the evacuation and felt that contraflow was more appropriate for coastal areas where there is a clear direction to send people (e.g., inland).

The DFW region received an Integrated Corridor Management Grant from DOT which when complete will greatly enhance the ability to manage traffic on the pilot corridor. These systems and experiences will then be spread throughout the DFW region and would greatly assist the region's ability to respond to an evacuation, if needed.

Top Highway Impediments

Top Highway Impediments

  • Infrastructure Limitations
  • Lack of Cameras along Key Routes
  • Evacuation Plans Do Not Exist

Local officials noted that mass evacuation is not their top transportation planning priority. However, through responses to the FHWA survey, the following would impede a large-scale, mass evacuation in the DFW region, should one be ordered:

  1. Infrastructure Limitations - Specific impediments include lane reductions on I-35W north of the I-30 interchange, which constrains north- and south-bound movements, as well as limited capacity on I-35W, Loop 820 north, and SH-121.
  2. Lack of Cameras along Key Routes - Officials stated that traffic cameras and staffing at the TMCs to monitor the video input are insufficient to provide full situational awareness during evacuation operations on key Interstates and State highways.
  3. Evacuation Plans Do Not Exist - Officials could more effectively coordinate evacuation operations if a scenario-based evacuation plan existed. Officials could then coordinate plans with potentially impacted neighboring jurisdictions and exercise them to identify their strengths and areas for improvement.

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