Florida Governor Rick Scott is directing the Transportation Department to implement new hurricane-evacuation and fuel-supply plans, including increasing emergency gas storage.
The orders are a response to the crippling fuel shortages and gridlocked traffic before and after Hurricane Irma last fall.
“As Florida continues to recover from Hurricane Irma, the largest storm to impact our state in modern history, it is critically important that we continue to do all we can to make sure our state is fully prepared in the face of any potential disaster,” Scott wrote in a news release.
First, the termed-limited governor wants evacuation improvements like expanding emergency shoulder use along interstates, along with installing more cameras and electronic messaging signs on Interstate 75 from Ocala to Georgia.
In the long-term, Scott would like to complete the I-75/Florida Turnpike interchange construction within a year and widen the Turnpike to six lanes along certain critical evacuation routes.
For fuel, Scott is directing emergency managers to identify critical gas stations along evacuation routes to ensure they have extra supplies during emergencies. He also wants first responders to increase their fuel capacities and to make it easier for fuel tankers to enter the state during emergencies. During Irma, Scott waived certain inspection requirements for gas trucks crossing into Florida.
Lastly, Scott said he’s assessing options for additional emergency fuel storage.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson in October filed a measure that asks the U.S. Department of Energy to set up Florida gas reserves — one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. The bill has yet to be heard.
“Sen. Nelson filed legislation in October calling for the U.S. Dept. of Energy to set up an actual Florida gasoline reserve, just like they did in the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy,” Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown said in an emailed statement. “This report today by the governor doesn’t offer any real solutions, it simply asks the state to look at doing something Nelson proposed five months ago.”
It’s widely believed Scott intends to challenge Nelson after he leaves the governor’s mansion later this year.