WASHINGTON – Maryland lawmakers want to know if Washington-area residents could get out of the city or get to medical help in a terrorist attack — and they don’t want to wait until there is one to find out.
“We are ground zero for other terrorist attacks,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, one of several area sponsors on a bill that calls for a study of the region’s infrastructure to see if it can handle a disaster similar to Sept. 11.
“Now you can’t get people home at a reasonable time on a regular day,” Bartlett said Friday, as he unveiled the bill with Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Baltimore, and Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va.
Those three co-sponsored the bipartisan bill, along with the rest of the Maryland delegation, several Virginia lawmakers and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat.
The study will examine major highways and roads including Interstates 66, 95 and 270. Even though the bill calls for a study of the situation, however, both Bartlett and Cardin said they have doubts already on the area’s emergency preparedness.
“We could not meet any reasonable evacuation plan today,” Cardin said.
The region already has its own commission within the Department of Homeland Security. The National Capital Region Coordination for Emergency Response oversees planning and coordination of security issues.
Currently, however, only Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are under the jurisdiction of the commission. The legislation would explore whether to expand the boundaries of the commission to include other parts of Maryland whose residents commute to the District including Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.
This is not the first time state lawmakers have talked about extending the commission’s reach. At a House Government Reform Committee hearing in April, Reps. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, and Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, urged House members to examine the boundaries.
The new bill focuses only on the Washington region. It does not call for studies in other areas around the country, such as New York City, that might also be targets of terrorism.
“Probably other areas would need to would need to do (a study),” Bartlett said. “We could be a model for other areas.”