Transportation Today: U.S. senators introduce bipartisan evacuation planning legislation

By Liz Carey

U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would help state and local governments improve emergency evacuation plans.

The Emergency Vehicle and Community (EVAC) Planning Act, S. 3605, would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to develop and disseminate guidance for states, territories, Tribes and local governments to use when they plan their transportation infrastructure.

“With wildfires, floods, and other disasters impacting our communities more frequently, Californians have seen firsthand the devastating consequences when emergency evacuation routes are overwhelmed,” Padilla said. “Yet far too often, smaller, rural, and Tribal governments lack crucial tools for disaster preparedness planning. Well-planned emergency evacuation routes can be the difference between life and death. We must equip our communities with the tools to effectively develop these routes.”

The legislation is endorsed by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) and National Association of Counties.

“The provision of guidelines to help communities implement emergency response protocols would not only help strengthen regional transportation planning efforts, but would also help bolster public safety in the event of a disaster. This exciting legislation also has great potential to improve long-term community economic recovery,” Joe McKinney, executive director of NADO, said.

The legislation would help state and local governments plan for extreme weather events that occur because of climate change.

“Avoiding harm is part of weathering a storm,” Cassidy said. “Well-maintained evacuation routes keep our communities safe ahead of hurricanes. Our bill creates guidelines for infrastructure planning to help save lives.”

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