Highway association finds major problems with city evacuation plans

Published 16 October 2006

Major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta fail the grade; Kansas City shines; opportunities abound for the traffic management industry

Do you know the way out of San Jose? This is the question planners in that city and others around the country are asking in the wake of a new report that finds most major American cities are unprepared to undertake widescale evacuations. Conducted by the American Highway Users Alliance, the study of fifty-six states and territories and seventy-five urban areas used such factors as the number of major highways out of a city, relevent geographic obstacles, the layout of the urban road system, and the percentage of residents who have access to cars. Kansas, for instance, was the only city to receive an A grade, due to its low population density, lack of geographic barriers, and strong internal road network. New York City — no surprise here — received an F, as did Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, Miami, Philadelphia, Denver, Atlanta, and Boston.

Helping these cities get up to snuff may be extremely lucrative, especially for those in the traffic management business. There is little that can be done about geographical barriers and low car ownership levels, but the effect can be mitigated by computerized systems which changes two-way roads into one-way ones, coordinate traffic lights, and manage access to highway on-ramps. Efforts will also be required to to get information to drivers about alternate routes and traffic conditions, whether by a comprehensive radio or cell phone alert system, or by a series of strategically placed flashing signs. “There are just so many factors that come into play,” said Justin DeMello, director of Denver’s Office of Emergency Management. “And there are no easy solutions.”

-read more in Mimi Hall’s USAToday report ;and see chart by the American Highway Users Alliance