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Summary of HRTPO Evacuation Analyses, Recommendations, and Funding

HRTPO staff has provided evacuation analysis and recommendations for decision-makers over the last three decades. Highlights follow:

In 1996, staff produced the “Hurricane Evacuation Plan Impact Study”.   The study investigated the expected impact of VDOT’s Hurricane Traffic Control Plan on the ability of Hampton Roads residents to evacuate.  Analyses were performed using a spreadsheet-based model which estimates the number of successful evacuations under various scenarios.  As a result of these tests, in order to provide adequate capacity for the geographically disadvantaged cities and to encourage the usage of arterial routes by outlying localities, the Board-approved study recommended:

  • closing the on-ramps to I-64 West on the Peninsula, and
  • reversing the (ordinarily) eastbound lanes of I-64 on the Peninsula.

In 2001, VDOT’s Hampton Roads Hurricane Traffic Control Plan included—for the first time—traffic control measures to implement a reversal of I-64 on the Peninsula.

In 2005, the Virginia Transportation Research Council (VTRC) prepared “Hampton Roads Hurricane Evacuation Route Evaluation”.  Reviewing the draft of this document, HRTPO staff recommended:

  • increasing metering rates or eliminating metering
  • leaving MMMBT open during evacuation.

On 18 January 2006, HRTPO staff presented slides to the VDOT-led Hurricane Evacuation Coordination Group, with recommendations including:

  • not restricting access to I-64 via closures and metering
  • teaching citizens annually whether or not their location is vulnerable to flooding
  • opening both HRBT tubes to Southside evacuees.

In June 2006, VDOT’s Hampton Roads Hurricane Traffic Control Plan included—for the first time—usage of both HRBT tubes for Southside evacuees.

In September 2008, VDOT’s Hurricane Lane Reversal Plan (replacing the earlier traffic control plans), for the first time:

  • excluded both metering and closing of on-ramps for WB I-64, as recommended by HRTPO staff in 2006 (above)
  • excluded closure of I-264 WB lane at Bowers Hill, as recommended by HRTPO staff in 1996 (above).

In January 2009, HRTPO staff submitted comments on the 2008 VDOT plan, including:

•     “please consider requiring that the MMBT remain open during evacuation.”

•     “please consider requiring that the 15th View ramp remain open during evacuation.”

In 2010, VDOT proposed reversing 13/58/460.  In response, HRTPO staff prepared a spreadsheet model (mirroring the Abbreviated Transportation Model developed for the 2008 “Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Study” by FEMA et al) and use it to test the proposed 13/58/460 reversal and leaving MMMBT open during evacuation.  HRTPO staff presented its findings to the HRTPO’s Transportation Technical Advisory Committee (TTAC):

  • Under the 2008 VDOT plan (without 13/58/460 reversal; with MMMBT closed), clearance time is 36 hours for the Southside, 17 hours for the Peninsula.
  • Leaving the MMMBT open during evacuation would reduce the time necessary to evacuate Hampton Roads from 36 hours to 29 hours, i.e. a 7 hour reduction.
  • Reversing US 13/58/460 would reduce the overall clearance time for Hampton Roads from 36 hours to 23 hours, i.e. a 13 hour reduction.

On 21 April 2011, the HRTPO Board allocated $1m of RSTP funds to the US 13/58/460 Reversal.

On 15 December 2011, Stephany Hanshaw (VDOT) presented slides to HRTPO Board highlighting a 168/64/58 Southside Reversal with 19 hour clearance time savings.

In May 2013, VDOT’s updated Hurricane Lane Reversal Plan included “VDOT will leave open I-664 North”, as recommended by HRTPO staff in 2005, 2009, and 2010.

In March 2014, HRTPO published the Board-approved “Prioritizing Highway Projects for Improvement of Evacuation”:

  • estimating that the 168/64/58 Southside Reversal would save 580,000 vehicle hours of delay during evacuation
  • finding the 168/64/58 Southside Reversal “highly cost effective” ($17 per hour saved)
  • recommending that the HRTPO Board and VDOT consider funding the 168/64/58 Southside Reversal project

At a June 1, 2017 press event at Ft. Monroe to announce new evacuation zones, Coordinator Stern of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) said that the interstate 64 lane-reversal plan remains a tool in the state’s tool box, but it can be only used in the most rare exceptional cases (a hurricane providing a 5 or 6 day notice without change).

In December 2019, HRTPO staff submitted comments on the draft Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Study (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, final published April 2020). Although less than the previous Corps study, the 2020 study estimates significant improvement to evacuation from lane reversal.

As of 2023, VDEM’s Hurricane Evacuation Coordination Workgroup (HECW)—of which HRTPO staff is a member—has met infrequently since the March 2020 response to COVID-19 began.