DOTD, State Police meet with regional leaders on evacuation plans
Wednesday, October 20, 2004 at 12:00:00 AM

NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Johnny Bradberry met with members of the New Orleans-area Regional Planning Commission on Tuesday and pledged his department’s support to positive changes in hurricane evacuation procedures.

            “We’re going to look at anything that can approve the process,” Bradberry told the group, which consisted of the mayor of New Orleans and parish presidents from Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes.

            Bradberry and Col. Henry Whitehorn of the Louisiana State Police presented a list of immediate actions that can be taken if another evacuation were ordered this season, which ends Nov. 30. That list includes:
* Starting the contraflow traffic pattern earlier.

* Establishing a joint DOTD/State Police Traffic Control Center to gather real-time traffic information and disseminate it to the public through the news media.

* More variable message board signs to direct drivers to alternate routes.

* Extended green or flashing yellow lights on major non-interstate routes.


            A joint DOTD-State Police task force, formed at the request of Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, also is working on long-term solutions, including computer modeling of contraflow alternatives and a public affairs campaign to inform the public of evacuation routes and alternate routes to the interstate.

            Several parish presidents, including Aaron Broussard of Jefferson Parish, thanked Bradberry and Whitehorn for participating in the meeting.

            “I commend you on the professional presentation and your willingness to work with us,” Broussard said.

            Many parish presidents also noted the need for better communications during an evacuation among state, parish and local agencies and between officials and the public.

            The parish and local officials also agreed to set up a regional conference call before evacuations are ordered so people who live in low-lying communities can leave before larger areas are evacuated. The goal is to attempt to stagger evacuations to avoid unreasonably long traffic delays and gridlock.

            Bradberry told RPC Executive Director Walter R. Brooks that he will continue meeting with the group to get input and present findings from the task force study.