By Tom Lehman 2:27pm, October 28, 2012 - Updated 6:43pm, October 28, 2012
Markell, Bhatt discuss downstate Rt. 1 closure, toll suspensionGovernor Jack Markell and DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt have announced that tolls on Route 1 have been suspended and that a downstate section of the highway has been closed due to high waters.
The announcements came at a press conference at the Delaware Emergency Management Agency building in Smyrna, where Markell declared that an executive order to declare a limited state of emergency now included the closure of businesses within evacuation zones at 6 p.m.
He reiterated that everyone located in those areas should vacate them or risk being cut off from emergency personnel and power for an extended period of time.
"This is the real deal and we expect people to treat it seriously," Markell says.
A portion of Rt. 1 was also announced to have been closed as a result of high water from the ocean reaching nearby dunes and spilling onto the roadway. Bhatt says those traveling from locations South of that segment of the highway should take an alternate route to rejoin Rt. 1.
"If they're coming North on Route 1 they should be taking the major arteries of 26 and 54 to go west to 113 and then continue up North to rejoin with Rt. 1 further North," he says.
Those leaving coastal evacuation areas may have an easier time traveling on Rt. 1. Bhatt says vehicles approaching toll plazas on Route 1in both directions will be redirected to the EZ Pass lanes to allow a more consistent flow of traffic to improve safety conditions. A press release later confirmed that this has been extended indefinitely.
"When we've got people pulling into our toll plazas and then trying to merge back with the EZ Pass higher-speed traffic, it can create the potential for a safety issue," he says.
Markell says evacuation of coastal areas should be completed by 8 p.m. but if anyone decides to remain in an evacuation area they should use the remaining time before the storm picks up steam to prepare. He encourages Delawareans who stay in those areas to stock up on clean water and food but also to have supplies for babies and pets.
Bhatt also warned that ignoring barricades is risky behavior that could have serious consequences.
"If we barricade and close a road, it's for a reason and every time there's an event like these across the country, people die and people get into very dangerous situation because
they don't follow the directions and don't respect the fact that roads are closed," he says.
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