Newly Released Study Identifies Roadway Improvements for Hurricane Evancuation in Southern Lee County
FORT MYERS, FL - A new study commissioned by Florida Gulf Coast University this summer to analyze regional roadways as they relate to the ability of Southwest Floridians to evacuate during a hurricane to FGCU's Alico Arena emergency shelter and beyond Lee County makes a few recommendations that would reduce evacuation times by modifying the current transportation network.
FGCU hired Carter & Burgess Inc. of Tampa to determine the public benefit of the county's proposed local roadway improvements to reduce hurricane evacuation clearance times.
Among the study's finds to help curb evacuation times are suggestions to widen key roads and create an interchange at the Coconut Road extension and Interstate 75.
Evacuees from Bonita Springs, Estero and other south Lee County areas use I-75 to travel out of county or to FGCU Alico Arena and Germain Arena. Exit 123 Corkscrew Road and Exit 128 Alico Road are the only means for evacuees to reach the shelters, which can accommodate 13,000 people. In addition, the 7.5-mile stretch between Bonita Beach and Corkscrew roads' exits concentrates high volumes of traffic at each of the interchanges during evacuation.
The Carter & Burgess study says Lee County's MPO 2020 which plans to extend Coconut Road east, with an I-75 overpass, to the proposed continuation of Collier County's north-south County Road 951 a few miles east of I-75, will somewhat reduce evacuation time. Other proposed improvements, including constructing wide outside shoulders on Estero and Hickory boulevards that can be used as emergency travel lanes, will also impact evacuation times.
Carter & Burgess says in addition to the considerable benefit to Estero Bay and Fort Myers Beach evacuees, by providing the roadway improvements proposed in the study, "a maximum combined reduction in overall clearance time of 6.2 hours (peak season) is achieved for areas just west of I-75 during a Category 3 hurricane.
"The comparison of clearance time between proposed sub-regional improvements and the additional access on I-75 indicates that during a Category 3 storm the proposed I-75/Coconut Road interchange has a greater effect in reducing clearance time than all other proposed sub-regional improvements combined."
During an evacuation, the proposed interchange will service "a low of 890 vehicles for a Category 1 hurricane to a high of 19,123 vehicles during a Category 4 or 5 storm. Approximately 22 percent of trips exiting the City of Bonita Springs during a hurricane will be serviced by the proposed I-75/Coconut Road interchange. This equates to approximately 7,600 persons during non-peak conditions and 8,600 persons during peak conditions."
Carter & Burgess suggests state, regional and local agencies consider further detailed study of the proposed roadway improvements listed in the study.
For technical questions about the study, contact Carter & Burgess vice president David Twiddy at (813) 975-7241.
For other information, contact associate vice president for Community Relations Audrea Anderson at (239) 590-1083.