WASHINGTON, D.C. – The N.C. Department of Transportation's Statewide Transportation Operations Center (STOC) has earned a top national honor for its response to Hurricane Florence.
The STOC was named the overall winner of the inaugural Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) Awards during the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board on Monday in Washington, D.C.
The Raleigh-based STOC, which coordinates state responses to travel emergencies, qualified as a finalist for the overall award in November by winning one of four TSMO awards presented by the National Operations Center of Excellence.
"We at the N.C. Department of Transportation are absolutely honored to be recognized among the 60-plus other submissions as the overall winner for our Hurricane Florence response," said Jennifer Portanova, the state traffic systems operations engineer. "Day in and day out, we work hard to keep traffic moving and people safe."
The STOC won in the "major incident or special event planning and response" category, recognizing an agency's response to an incident using tools that maximize roadway efficiency and safety through management and operational ingenuity. The award considered interagency cooperation and other measures that improved safety, and travel time or congestion issues.
STOC staff executed plans that helped make it easier for people to evacuate, coordinated the state's use of drones to determine which roads were safe for travel after the storm, and regularly updated an online service that provided accurate information about road conditions.
"Hurricane Florence showcased our relationships with other public agencies, the private sector and the emergency responder community," Portanova said. "We are most proud of the amazing work our NCDOT team did during a stressful and demanding event. The innovative TSMO solutions and hard work made me proud to be part of this award-winning team."
The STOC optimized traffic flow during widespread flooding that prompted a coastal evacuation and the closure of more than 2,400 roads, enabling average highways speeds of more than 50 mph during that time.
STOC and other NCDOT staff and volunteers responded to more than 27,000 citizen phone calls during the response to Hurricane Florence. DriveNC.gov also provided self-service roadway condition information to 7.5 million viewers during Florence.
"There's no doubt, lives were saved because of the crucial work done by our colleagues at NCDOT," said Patrick Son, managing director of the National Operations Center of Excellence. "Their preparation and response were amazing, coordinating, moving and informing millions of people. This is a case where things could have gone horribly wrong and instead, the coalition of TSMO practitioners, traffic managers, first responders and partners had an incredibly positive outcome."