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Congressmen Garamendi, Keating Introduce Bill to Fund Evacuation Routes

May 20, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and William R. Keating (D-MA) introduced the Enhancing the Strength and Capacity of America’s Primary Evacuation Routes (ESCAPE) Act, with U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) sponsoring the Senate companion bill. The ESCAPE Act (H.R.2838) would authorize $1 billion to help communities improve evacuation routes in the wake of increased climate-related disasters across the country.

“Creating safe and effective evacuation routes should be a priority for every lawmaker,” said Congressman Garamendi (D-CA). “In 2017, nearly 200,000 Californians were forced to evacuate when they learned that Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the nation, was on the verge of failing. Thousands of drivers funneled onto a narrow two-lane highway, spending hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic to reach safety along the Sacramento Valley’s major north-to-south evacuation route,” said Congressman Garamendi. “Last year, Paradise, California, just north of my district was reduced to rubble by the devastating Camp Fire. As the flames engulfed the single-lane road that served as the city’s primary evacuation route, residents were forced to abandon their vehicles and escape on foot—some to their death. The lack of adequate evacuation routes in our nation—particularly for small rural communities—is costing us lives every year. Our bicameral legislation would provide dedicated federal funding for evacuation routes that save lives in times of crisis,” Congressman Garamendi concluded.

“We need to provide Americans with safe and reliable evacuation routes, especially in areas at elevated risk of disaster,” said Congressman Keating (D-MA). “The Bourne and Sagamore Bridges over the Cape Cod Canal are especially vulnerable, as they have long exceeded their working lives. And yet, they remain the only lifelines for the residents of Cape Cod in times of emergency. Our communities have been hit by several Nor’easters the last few winters, and have also had several near-misses in recent hurricane seasons, including Hurricane Jose, which brought Tropical Storm conditions in 2017. The ESCAPE Act would ensure high-priority evacuation routes like the two Cape Cod bridges are stable and secure, and would be ready to meet the needs of the coastal communities in our area.”

The ESCAPE Act (H.R.2838) directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish a competitive grant program for roadway, bridges, and other transportation projects that strengthen and protect routes essential for mass evacuations caused by natural disasters and other emergency events. The bill currently awaits action before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, of which Congressman Garamendi is a senior Democratic member. Congressman Keating sponsored the legislation last Congress.

A copy of the ESCAPE Act (H.R.2838) can be found here.