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DOT Takes New Road to Weather Future Disasters

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RALEIGH — People along the North Carolina coast -- as well as those living inland -- worry about tropical storms heading their way. TheN.C. Department of Transportationsays it failed in many areas after Hurricane Floyd, mainly in getting information out to the public.

After Floyd, no type of road was spared. Flooding covered secondaries, primaries and major interstates. The people in charge of the roads say they did not do a good enough job helping people get around it.

"The public really needed to know more information than we had been providing," says David Allsbrook, DOT assistant chief engineer. "Those roads that were damaged or severed took days and weeks to get back open and the public needed information on how to get around and how could they get back to their particular home."

Lessons have been learned from hurricanes Fran and Floyd. So what is the DOT's plan to do a better job on the next big disaster?

By Labor Day, and hopefully before the next big hurricane, the DOT will open its new State Emergency Information Center. It is one-stop shopping for getting the word out on road trouble to its hotline, its Web site, and the news media.

The second leg of trying to better handle disaster is the new Statewide Transportation Operations Center.

Still under construction, the state's high-tech transportation tools -- changeable message signs, highway advisory radios, and the DOT's network ofroad cameras-- will all be controlled at the center.

During Floyd, separate, regional offices tried to handle the trouble. All offices will now be under one roof.

"We can look more quickly at the state and say here's our problem area. Here are our resources. These are the people we need to call to get things where they need to be," says Kelly Hutchinson, DOT engineer.

The hurricane season has been kind to North Carolina, so far. If the tide turns, the DOT says it is better prepared to serve its public.


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