Emergency Transportation Operations

Highway Evacuations in Selected Metropolitan Areas: Assessment of Impediments

St. Louis, Missouri

#21-Most Congested
#18-Population (2,817,000)
INRIX® National Traffic Scorecard 2009

map of St. Louis, Missouri

The Plan

Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials reported that mass evacuation and predetermined events are not scenarios that they plan for and that they use a very high-level statewide plan that is not prescripted. As such, interviewees indicate that St. Louis does not have an emergency plan for the metropolitan area. The closest to a regional plan is the bi-State Gateway Guide produced by the St. Louis MPO.

In Missouri, evacuation is the responsibility of the Office of the Governor. The Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan does not contain an evacuation section, although MoDOT is a supporting agency along with many other agencies to the State Emergency Management Agency in executing the Plan. The MoDOT maintains an Incident Response Plan (IRP), but not an "evacuation plan," per se. The MoDOT IRP is an "all-hazards" plan that focuses on process rather than specific pre-scripted responses. The MoDOT official said that there are no scenarios that would result in a mass evacuation anywhere in Missouri and that all anticipated situations would be localized.

Top Highway Impediments

Interviewed officials noted that since mass evacuation is not an anticipated response in Missouri, it is difficult to identify highway impediments that would curtail an evacuation. However, they did offer some insights on the highway system that suggest that an evacuation could be impeded by various infrastructure, operations, technology, and resource impediments.

These are as follows:

Top Highway Impediments

  • Limited Capacity
  • Highway Capacity & Bridges
  1. Limited Capacity - Based on several Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) exercises focused on bridge attacks and chemical releases in very small areas, officials found that if city leadership called for a no-notice mass evacuation of St. Louis, existing capacity would not be sufficient. At best, the DOT can use DMS, service patrols and the tools currently available to help move the traffic, but will never alleviate the congestion in the unlikely event a mass evacuation is ordered.
  2. Highway Capacity and Bridges - In St. Louis, the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers present the greatest obstacle to evacuation. St. Louis lacks the highway capacity for a mass evacuation. Contraflow is not realistic due to physical constraints and the manpower required. This is complicated by the fact that the most likely evacuation events are no-notice events in the Midwest. The MoDOT officials recognize that while more highway capacity is the best way to address any potential for mass evacuations, it is not very practical.

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