Other states also puzzled about when to close/reopen roads
Published: Sunday, July 29, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 7:59 p.m.
One of the major findings of a state investigation into the Jan. 29 accidents on Interstate 75 is that Florida lacks a coherent policy for troopers to use to determine when and how to close a highway because of poor visibility and how to reopen it.
The report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement indicates this is a national problem.
The FDLE sent requests to officials in Florida and 13 other states and to federal agencies seeking their policies on controlling roads during bad weather, fire or other events limiting visibility.
A review by The Sun of those responses shows that there is no national policy and that the states lacked specific criteria to use in assessing visibility and for reopening roadways.
In some cases, the FDLE concluded, there were only general directions such as "when conditions improve" or "when the hazard has been corrected."
Here are the agencies polled and their responses:
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the parent agency of the
Florida Highway Patrol, cited Policy 17.14. The FDLE said this protocol "lacks clarity'' and leads to "confusion among FHP command personnel." Also, "current opinion among FHP personnel suggests that adherence to the checklists is not mandatory."
* The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: No policy dealing with how to reopen closed highways.
* U.S. Department of Transportation: No national policy on closing a road because of poor visibility.
* Alachua County Sheriff's Office: No policy on road closures and openings or smoke/fog protocols.
* Kentucky DOT: No policy dealing with road closures because of limited visibility.
* California Highway Patrol: Has a code that calls for troopers to direct traffic as conditions require.
* Georgia DOT: Has a memorandum titled "Smoke and Fog Strategy — revised."
* South Carolina Department of Public Safety: Has a document called "Emergency Traffic Management."
* Arkansas Highway Patrol: Has administrative orders dealing with closing highways because of snow and ice.
* Alabama DOT: Has no policy regarding road closures because of low visibility.
* Virginia State Police: Has a Traffic Improvement Plan Operation Manual.
* North Carolina Highway Patrol: Has no policy dealing with road closures based on fog and smoke.
* Washington DOT: Has a transportation maintenance manual.
The following agencies did not respond:
* National Transportation Safety Board
* Oregon DOT
* Oklahoma Highway Patrol
* Texas Department of Public Safety
* Tennessee DOT