Emergency Transportation Operations

Highway Evacuations in Selected Metropolitan Areas: Assessment of Impediments


Almost 5 years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita battered Louisiana and Texas, respectively, public officials remain focused on the Nation's ability to safely evacuate large numbers of people. As a part of the Fiscal Year 2010 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) appropriations (Public Law 111-117), the U.S. Congress requested the DOT, in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to:

  • assess mass evacuation plans for the country's high-threat, high-density areas and identify and prioritize deficiencies on those routes that could impede evacuations and
  • conduct an analysis of how national highway system (NHS) projects under construction west of the National Capital Region (NCR) could increase the NCR's evacuation capacity and provide a detailed plan to accelerate such projects.

The following information addresses both assessments and involves a broad view of what local authorities in 26 metropolitan areas view as the greatest impediments of their NHS routes in supporting a mass evacuation within their region, as well as a section dedicated to assessing construction and options for accelerating work along NHS routes west of the NCR that would facilitate the movement of NCR evacuees from danger as necessary.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) led the multiagency effort to gather and consolidate information. The planning, interview and review teams included representatives of various FHWA offices, the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, the DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offices of Response and of the National Capital Region Coordination (NCRC). Inquiries on the report should be directed to the authors: Jeff Lindley, Associate Administrator, FHWA Office of Operations; Mark Kehrli, Director, FHWA Office of Transportation Operations; or Kimberly C. Vásconez, Team Leader, FHWA Emergency Transportation Operations. The FHWA recognizes all of the FHWA interviewers (Sandra Jackson, Tim Lane, Ray Murphy, Paul Olson, Nathaniel Price, Laurel J. Radow, and Chung Tran) and the numerous State and local officials (listed in Appendix A) who gave their expertise and time to aid in producing this report.

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