Pennsylvania lawmakers move to expand, extend use of automated tickets

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, July 18, 2016

More red-light cameras could soon be headed to Pennsylvania roadways. A bill on the governor’s desk would expand and extend the state’s red-light camera program.

House lawmakers voted 146-43 on Monday, July 11, to advance a bill to Gov. Tom Wolf that covers traffic signals and the use of automated enforcement in the state. The Senate already approved the bill by a 45-5 vote.

The legislation, SB1267, covers the state’s three-year-old Green Light-Go program that benefits municipalities throughout the state. Specifically, localities are eligible for funding through the program to upgrade their traffic signals.

Sen. Bill Rafferty, R-Montgomery, said his bill would reduce the local match, allow for other matching funds beyond private and municipal, and include additional provisions for traffic signal management and enforcement.

A separate provision in the bill would delay plans to rid the state of red-light cameras.

Automated ticketing devices are used in the city of Philadelphia and certain other municipalities. Without legislative action to save them, the devices are set to be discontinued next year.

Rafferty’s bill would extend the sunset provision for red-light cameras to 2027.

Critics say the legislation is an effort to help ensure the existing ticketing programs never go away.

A 2012 state law extended Philadelphia’s program to July 2017, and it authorized 29 municipalities to install the ticketing devices. To date, only Abington Township in Montgomery County has installed cameras.

Another effort covers the use of speed cameras in active work zones on interstates and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Specifically, SB840 would set up a five-year pilot program for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Turnpike Commission to post speed cameras.

Automated enforcement cameras would be used to detect drivers exceeding the posted speed limit by at least 11 mph when workers are present. Registered owners of vehicles found in violation would receive $100 fines in the mail. No points would be added to a driver’s record.

A fiscal note attached to the bill reports the cameras could raise $33.1 million annually with the majority of revenue routed to the state’s Motor License Fund.

Opponents say instead of resorting to automated enforcement cameras they would rather see police officers posted in work zones. They also note that officers can monitor other dangerous driving behaviors.

At the end of the trial period PennDOT would provide a report to the General Assembly to assess whether to continue the program.

The bill awaits further consideration by the full Senate. The companion bill, HB2236, is in the House Transportation Committee.

One more bill singles out a major roadway in Philadelphia for speed enforcement cameras.

Sponsored by Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, the bill would authorize the use of speed cameras along U.S. 1, or Roosevelt Boulevard.

The 15-mile roadway stretching from the Bucks County line to Interstate 76 already has 40 red-light cameras posted at various intersections.

HB2233 would permit use of the speed cameras along the 12-lane roadway.

Taylor wrote in a memo to lawmakers late last month that photo radar devices reduce all speed-related crashes by as much as 25 percent. He added that crashes involving fatalities are reduced by as much as 44 percent.

Violators exceeding the posted speed limit by at least 10 mph would face $150 fines. No points would be added to driver’s licenses.

In addition, law enforcement would be permitted to access photo images “if they are conducting a criminal investigation.” All images captured along the roadway would be destroyed within one year.

Opponents question the accuracy of speed cameras.

Tom McCarey, a member of the National Motorists Association, says ticket cameras instead are aimed right at drivers’ wallets.

“We need to stop the nickel-and-diming of drivers in Pennsylvania,” McCarey says.

OOIDA officials say the focus on the revenue-generating devices ignores the more logical and reasoned approach to roads and traffic: keep traffic moving in as safe a manner as possible.

The bill is in the House Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania, click here.

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