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Prioritizing Highway Projects for Improvement of Evacuation

Prioritizing Highway Projects for Improvement of Evacuation

The Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) has published Prioritizing Highway Projects for Improvement of Evacuation, identifying and prioritizing—according to cost effectiveness—highway projects designed to improve hurricane evacuation in Hampton Roads. 

Under current conditions, in the event of a hurricane  it is possible that only a portion of the people living in homes in low-lying areas of Hampton Roads will be able to evacuate.  Due to the number of households in low-lying areas, and given the current capacity of evacuation highways (including the planned reversal of I-64), it may take 36 hours to clear evacuation highways for a Category 3 storm.  However, due to the uncertainty associated with the final path of an approaching storm, local citizens and governments may not begin evacuation 36 hours before the arrival of tropical storm force winds.  According to a June 2013 report prepared for the Southeast Virginia / Northeast North Carolina Regional Catastrophic Planning Project (RCPT), “…due to the geography and location of the region, it will be rare to have the lead time needed…”.

Therefore, to increase the likelihood of evacuation success, it is desirable to increase the capacity of evacuation highways.  Given that no prioritized list of highway projects for improving evacuation exists for Hampton Roads, this study prepared a prioritized list of highway projects that improve evacuation. 

The following highway projects were analyzed:

  • 168/64/58 Southside Reversal
  • Evacuation Timing Plans for US 17 Signals (Newport News and Gloucester)
  • Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) Build-8 Alternative
  • I-64 Peninsula Widening (from Bland Blvd to I-295)
  • US 58 Widening (from Suffolk Bypass to I-95)

The first two projects:

  • 168/64/58 Southside Reversal
  • Evacuation Timing Plans for US 17 Signals (Newport News and Gloucester)

were found to be “highly cost effective”

According to Assessment of VDOT Bowers Hill Improvement Alternatives to Ease Evacuation (Atkins, Draft, Oct. 2011), the 168/64/58 Southside Reversal will save 19 hours of the estimated 48 hour clearance time for persons using the Suffolk Bypass to evacuate via US 58 and US 460.  

Key components of the 168/64/58 Southside Reversal 

Source of images: Draft “Assessment of VDOT Bowers Hill Improvement Alternatives to Ease Evacuation”, Atkins, Oct. ’11, App. A

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