Emergency Transportation Operations

Highway Evacuations in Selected Metropolitan Areas: Assessment of Impediments

Miami, Florida

#13-Most Congested
#7-Population (5,415,000)
INRIX® National Traffic Scorecard 2009

map of Miami, Florida

The Plan

Florida is one of the States that is at the forefront of emergency readiness, response, and planning. In 2005, Florida developed the Contraflow plan for the Florida Interstate Highway System (FIHS). This plan identified the following routes that could be used for evacuation: Sarasota County's I-75 Shoulder Use Plan, Jacksonville's I-10 Contraflow Plan, Space Coast's SR 528 (Beeline Expressway) Contraflow Plan, Tampa Bay's I-4 Contraflow Plan, Florida Turnpike Contraflow Plan for Southeast Florida, and Southeast/Southwest Florida Contraflow Plan for I-75/Alligator Alley. The FDOT State Traffic Engineering office in Tallahassee vetted and keeps the plans current. Within this office, the Deputy Traffic Engineer for Incident Management manages this program.

Florida has spent close to $1 billion to deploy ITS technology to enhance highway operations. As a part of that effort, the State migrated to a single statewide TMC Software (SunGuide) beginning in 2004. All TMCs across the State in Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and the Florida Turnpike in Orlando and southeast Florida use the SunGuide software. The State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Tallahassee also installed the SunGuide software for use by the Emergency Support Function #1 (Transportation) liaison that operates at the EOC when activated during time of emergency operations. This single platform enables the State to share controls of cameras and other devices in real-time.

In November 2006, FDOT and the Florida Department of Emergency Management—in concert with FEMA—initiated the development of the comprehensive "Florida Catastrophic Planning Project," which considers two, large-scale incidents resulting in projected consequences of catastrophic proportions: a breach of the Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) around the waters of Lake Okeechobee and a Category 5 hurricane impacting the entire South Florida peninsula, which has a population of nearly 7 million.

This project includes data collection and comprehensive capability assessments of local, State, and Federal resources to support response to a failure of the HHD and a Category 5 hurricane striking south Florida. Analysis of the assessments and draft county plans will help to identify resource gaps, inconsistencies, and competing interests for limited resources.

For the purpose of this study, respondents reported that the State plan is current, the Florida Catastrophic Plan will be completed soon, and the FIHS Contraflow plan, published in 2005, undergoes continuous updates.

vehicles stopped on road

While Florida maintains a robust support system for evacuations, local authorities call for an evacuation, and coordinate evacuation decisions with neighboring counties. The State views evacuation operations from a strategic view and supports the local efforts by ensuring requested assistance is available. The FDOT also provides support to local jurisdictions during evacuation operations, for example with FDOT service patrols, known as Road Rangers. In addition, FDOT makes available DMS to support evacuations and maintains a vendor list of those that have these resources available during an incident. The demand for these units is at a premium during mass evacuations.

The FDOT District 6 (D-6) covers the Miami area, which has one of the most mature ITS programs in Florida. Miami's TMC was one of the first to integrate law enforcement operations. Over time, Miami developed unique partnerships with other transportation providers to ensure the best operation within the area. The FDOT D-6 integrated operations with District 4 (D-4) Fort Lauderdale, District 8 (D-8) Florida Turnpike, city of Miami and Miami-Dade Expressway (toll authority). These transportation agencies meet regularly to ensure cross coordination across all domains within their transportation system. Miami also maintains a very robust safety/service patrol program. Partners meet on a regular basis.

The State's most current plan will be updated in 2010. The State plan addresses area threats and responses regionally. The Florida's Turnpike Enterprise also maintains contraflow plans. Interviewees caution that voluntary evacuations will overlay mandatory evacuations, skewing the outcome of planning assumptions (Florida manages mandatory evacuations by locations; however, others moving into the evacuation stream cause congestion on the facility.) State and regional plans undergo annual updates. However, after each incident, authorities also conduct an After-Action Review (AAR) to evaluate every component of the plan. As the AAR process uncovers deficiencies, authorities adjust corresponding plans.

Top Highway Impediments

Top Highway Impediments

  • Insufficient Road Capacity
  • Damage to Critical Infrastructure
  • Work Zones on Major Routes
  • Traffic Signal Timing
  • Lack of ITS Devices on Major Arterial Roads

Information provided by those interviewed identified five impediments to evacuating the Miami metro area as follows:

  1. Insufficient Roadway Capacity - Roadway capacity in the Miami area would be exceeded during large scale mass evacuation.
  2. Damage to Critical Infrastructure - Damage to infrastructure such as bridges and overpasses would greatly reduce the ability to evacuate the population.
  3. Work Zones on Major Routes - Work zones on key routes such as I-595, I-95, etc., would seriously impede an evacuation of the Metro-Dade area, particularly if given little to no notice.
  4. Traffic Signal Timing - Authorities must coordinate local traffic signals for optimization.
  5. Lack of ITS Devices on Major Arterial Roads - FDOT D-6 deployed many ITS devices on the Interstates. However, these tools—which provide critical situational awareness information, can aid in transportation operations and may be used to alert the public to changes in traffic patterns or dangers on the roadways—are not deployed along major arterial roads, which may be used as evacuation routes.

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