Earthquake Traffic Raises Emergency Evacuation Concerns

By Tom Sherwood
|  Thursday, Aug 25, 2011  |  Updated 6:14 AM EDT
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News 4's Tom Sherwood talks to officials around the region about the traffic problems caused by the east coast quake.

News 4's Tom Sherwood talks to officials around the region about the traffic problems caused by the east coast quake.

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Earthquake-related traffic jams in the D.C. area Tuesday raised concerns about the ability to have an emergency evacuation if necessary.

The afternoon rush hour was extended, as many left work early because of earthquake evacuations and got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Some area business leaders said more should have been done to ease the traffic. They said that despite a decade of planning since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the region can’t handle emergency evacuation.

“If something terrible happens to this region, we’ve got to be better prepared, and that’s still the 800 pound gorilla in this region, certainly as it relates to traffic, and so it had a debilitating effect, and then you didn’t have the light switched over until three o’clock, and then you didn’t have the single lanes and things like that,” said Board of Trade President Jim Dinegar

“We still have one major gap, and that gap is providing the public quick, accurate, reliable information not only as to what’s going on and the condition of the transportation system, but what’s the best thing for them to do,” said Falls Church Councilman Dave Snyder, an expert in regional emergency response for the Council of Governments.

D.C. leaders said the tough traffic went reasonably and that most people won’t shelter in place as they are urged to do.

“People are just going to leave,” DDOT Director Terry Bellamy said. “You can be in any city in the world, they’re just going to do it.”

But Bellamy said they’ll continue to ask people to stay in place as long as they possibly can.

“If you don’t panic with the situation and we can deal with the peak, then it’s great,” he said.

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