By Dom Nozzi
January 13, 2003
When it comes to issues pertaining to evacuation plans, communities need to be on guard against people who want to widen roads to promote sprawl and free-flowing, high-speed car travel. Commonly, the Happy Car lobby will use “emergency evacuation” as a scare tactic. By mentioning evacuation, the road widening lobby can achieve the “moral high ground.” Who, after all, could be opposed to evacuating the population if there is an emergency?
The hidden agenda, of course, is to widen the road to promote sprawl, real estate, and happy cars.
The community needs to use whatever tools it has available (state laws, local plans, etc.) to establish a MAXIMUM SIZE for its roads. In the case of Gainesville, Florida, where I was a town planner, the City adopted my suggested maximum that the City shall never build a road bigger than 4 lanes. Because, as I point out in many of my transportation speeches, big roads are very harmful to the quality of life (and sustainability) of a community.
The community could decide (if it is using a growth management tool) that, say, 4 lane roads are the maximum size roads allowed. The maximum is a tool chosen by the community to protect its quality of life. That becomes the “level of service standard” that the community adopts in its growth management plan.
The 4-lane maximum road then becomes, indirectly, a limiting factor for population growth in the community. The community could turn the destructive evacuation strategy I mention above on its head. The community could, for example, use a growth management laws as leverage to say to a proposed new residential developer: “I’m sorry, but our adopted plan does not allow you to build here. If you build here, there will be “X” number of new car trips that will need to be evacuated in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately for you, our evacuation plan states that we must be able to evacuate our community in “Y” minutes. If the new car trips from your proposed project were added to our 4-lane roads, we would not be able to evacuate fast enough. Since our plan clearly states that we will not exceed 4 lanes on our roads, we cannot approve your project.”