More Accessible Roads Needed for Safe Hurricane Evacuation, Craig Fugate Says

With our growing population, Florida lacks the safe and accessible roadways our residents and visitors can depend on, especially during an evacuation.

by Craig Fugate, Special to The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla. / May 15, 2019
Heavy southbound Interstate 95 traffic slows as Hurricane Irma evacuees return to south Florida, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. TNS

(TNS) — We're weeks away from June 1, the start of Florida's hurricane season. It's vital to have the conversation about the future of our state's roadways and how Florida residents can evacuate more efficiently and safely, in the event of a natural disaster. As a former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator and Florida Emergency Management director, I am pleased to see that the Florida Legislature passed a measure that will create three new multi-use corridors.

With the Innovation in Infrastructure Plan, which is waiting Gov. Ron DeSantis' signature to become law, our lawmakers have taken steps to make sure Florida families have several transportation options to travel to another part of the state or leave the state, should they need to. And, looking at past hurricane seasons, especially last year during Hurricane Michael when some Floridians experienced great congestion trying to get to safety, we know the need is inevitable.

Ask anyone who has gotten stuck on U.S. 19 for hours in gridlock traffic during an evacuation what they think about a roadway running parallel, but, most importantly, heading north. I can assure you they will agree — Floridians need more options.

With our growing population, Florida lacks the safe and accessible roadways our residents and visitors can depend on, especially during an evacuation. Because of that, some Floridians may choose to stay and ride out a storm for fear of becoming trapped on a roadway due to too many vehicles trying to leave at the same time and not enough roadways traveling north. This is a dangerous practice that needs to end.

The Innovation in Infrastructure Plan allows for the responsible planning and connectivity we need and deserve. No one wants Florida to turn into a state that builds haphazard roadways, destroying our unique, natural lands. With the planning and connectivity this legislation provides, our residents will be able to safely and efficiently travel the roads, and evacuate when needed, while preserving our green land.

Balancing public safety and protecting our state's lands is a delicate act, and this bill successfully harmonizes the two. Anyone that speaks out against this project should do so with the visual in mind of gridlock traffic from our neighbors in the south evacuating north. I applaud Florida lawmakers for their dedication to ensure this historic piece of legislation made it to Gov. DeSantis' desk.

Fugate headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 2009 through 2017 under President Obama. Before that, he was the Florida Emergency Management director under Gov. Jeb Bush.

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