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Emergency shoulder use is Florida’s new mass-evacuation strategy

Traffic

ESU replaces contraflow and lane reversal on six evacuation routes

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, and the average date of the first named storm is July 9.

With the Atlantic heating up, the Emergency Services managers with the Florida Department of Transportation want to make sure everyone’s aware of the modified procedures for mass evacuations.

FDOT will no longer use contraflow, or lane reversal. Contraflow requires blocking incoming traffic, securing the travel lanes and moving evacuation traffic across crossover sections to fully utilize capacity on an interstate.

Establishing a contraflow traffic pattern is a lengthy process, taking hours to put in place.

FDOT has replaced contraflow and lane reversal with Emergency Shoulder Use (ESU). ESU makes the existing paved shoulders of evacuation routes available as travel lanes, a process with a much shorter timeline to implement.

The only restriction of ESU is that trucks, trailers, and buses will not be allowed to use the shoulders, for safety reasons, and will be confined to the regular lanes of traffic.

ESU was first implemented during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Evacuees were able to drive on the inside shoulder of I-75 northbound from Wildwood to Georgia and on I-4 northbound from Tampa to Kissimmee.

Now, ESU plans are in place for six evacuation routes.

Interstate 4

  • Eastbound from US-41/50th Street in Tampa (Hillsborough County) to SR-417 in Celebration (Osceola County)

Interstate 10

  • Westbound from SR 23 in Jacksonville (Duval County) to Interstate 75 in Lake City (Columbia County)
  • Westbound from Interstate 75 in Lake City (Columbia County) to US 319 in Tallahassee (Leon County)

Interstate 75

  • Northbound from SR-951 in Naples (Collier County) to SR-143 in Jennings (Hamilton County). This is broken down in three segments: from Naples to the Sarasota/Manatee county line; from SR-64 in Manatee County to Progress Boulevard in Hillsborough County; and from I-4 to Hamilton County.

Interstate 75 Alligator Alley

  • North- and southbound between US-27 in Weston (Broward County) to SR-951 in Naples

Interstate 95

  • Northbound from SR-706 in Jupiter (Palm Beach County) to south of Interstate 295 in Jacksonville (Duval County)

Florida’s Turnpike

  • Northbound from SR-50 in Winter Garden (Orange County) to US-301 in Wildwood (Sumter County)

According to FDOT, the ESU activation will be based on an individual storm threat instead of a specific storm category.

If you have a traffic question, contact 8 On Your Side’s Traffic Reporter Meredyth Censullo via email at mcensullo@wfla.com or on Facebook at WFLAMeredyth.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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