MONTGOMERY – The Alabama Department of Transportation on Wednesday, June 29, will lead a rehearsal of the plan that, if needed, helps travelers safely evacuate the Gulf Coast during major hurricanes.
Annually, ALDOT conducts exercises of its plan to reverse southbound traffic on Interstate 65 to provide four northbound lanes for evacuating traffic.
The term “contraflow” describes the condition when highway lanes carry traffic in the opposite direction from normal operations.
In the case of I-65 contraflow, southbound lanes carry northbound traffic.
However, contraflow is not automatic during hurricane-related evacuations, but when necessary, these exercises help ensure it can be performed safely.
On Wednesday, around 200 ALDOT workers and a contingency of state troopers will be positioned along I-65 between Baldwin County and Montgomery to simulate the activity associated with reversing I-65 traffic.
Alabama developed a hurricane evacuation plan to reverse traffic on I-65’s southbound lanes after Hurricane Floyd hit the East Coast in 1999.
Planning and annual rehearsals since spring 2000 made Alabama’s lane reversals during Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis a success, helping to evacuate the Gulf Coast without any hurricane-related loss of life.
The plan for reversing I-65 traffic consists of 116 steps and requires approximately 200 Department of Transportation employees, 140 state troopers, and additional personnel from the Alabama National Guard.
The rehearsal simulates the lane reversal activities that may occur during a real hurricane evacuation and provides an opportunity to practice each of the steps required in the process.
Personnel involved in the rehearsal will pre-position themselves and their equipment, just as they would during their response to a real hurricane evacuation.
Traffic will not be reversed or detoured anywhere along I-65 during the reverse lane training exercise, but every other portion of the plan will be simulated.
Personnel will be pre-positioned at checkpoints beginning at approximately 7 a.m. along I-65 between the initial crossover south of State Route 225 (Exit 31) in Mobile County and the north terminus just north of Exit 167 in Montgomery.
There are 24 assigned checkpoints and 22 interchanges along I-65 that are involved in the lane reversal plan.