Hurricane gate

A hurricane gate on the entrance ramp to Interstate 64 at Hampton Roads Center Parkway. (Jonathon Gruenke / Daily Press / July 17, 2014)

A mandated 60-day review of the state's hurricane emergency and evacuation plan is due on Gov. Terry McAuliffe's desk by Aug. 15. The governor ordered the review in May after participating in an emergency exercise, during which he expressed doubts about the state's ability to safely evacuate Hampton Roads.

The Virginia departments of Emergency Management and Transportation, known as VDEM and VDOT, are jointly conducting the review, with VDEM as lead. After VDEM officials updated the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization on Thursday, VDOT officials offered more information about what the review involves and their role.

VDOT spokesman Ron Watrous said the review "is focused broad areas including situational awareness, coordination between local and state agencies, evacuations (including I-64 lane reversal), citizens in need of assistance and public information."

Watrous said reviewing the emergency plan is not new to VDOT, which regularly goes over its plans. "We are actively participating in this comprehensive review."

One of the plan elements under review is the region's lane-reversal plan, which would turn the interstates into one-way corridors heading north and west, away from danger. But for the present, which includes the current hurricane season, the state evacuation plan includes the lane-reversal component.

"VDOT is evaluating broader procedures during hurricanes than evacuation with lane reversals, such as pre-staging teams and equipment, planning forward basing of teams and equipment to expedite recovery and reviewing key decision points in our hurricane plan for internal actions, Watrous said. The agency also is coordinating with localities, other state departments and federal agencies.

Officials from both VDEM and VDOT have said they are considering some short-term changes to the plan, mostly associated with timing of evacuation orders and deploying resources and supplies needed.

No tolls during storm

Were you among the drivers who tried to use the Midtown Tunnel on the afternoon of July 10, when heavy storms drenched the area and flooded the tunnel? If so, you will not be charged for that trip.

Elizabeth River Tunnels project officials said rerouted drivers who tried to use the tunnel between 3:13 and 5;15 p.m. that day "will not be expected to pay a toll." Officials said the customer service center has attempted to filter transactions that occurred during that time, but might have missed a few.

"Customers are encouraged to carefully review their E-ZPass accounts and Pay by Plate invoices," project spokeswoman Leila Rice said in an email. "If toll charges are discovered for this time frame, customers should contact the Elizabeth River Tunnels Customer Service Center." They can do so by calling 855-ERT-ROAD or visiting customerservice@DriveERT.biz to have the charges reviewed and reversed.

Grimes can be reached at cgrimes@dailypress.com; 757-247-4758 and on Twitter, @cathgrimes. Be sure to check the Street Smart webpage for transportation and traffic news stories, and the Street Smart blog, at http://www.dailypress.com/news/traffic/.