After speeding driver causes deadly Roosevelt Blvd. crash, PPA says cameras on the way

A pedestrian crosses 12 lanes of Roosevelt Boulevard at Rising Sun Avenue. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A pedestrian crosses 12 lanes of Roosevelt Boulevard at Rising Sun Avenue. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Speed cameras should be up and running on deadly Roosevelt Boulevard by the end of February, according to the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

The news comes within days of two serious collisions, one of them fatal, caused by speeding drivers on the expressway running through North Philadelphia to the Bucks County line.

“We’re trying to curb behavior through the stick,” Scott Petri, PPA’s executive director said.

The automated enforcers will be installed at eight spots on the Boulevard starting at the Banks Way crosswalk near 2nd Street in Feltonville.  City officials, in 2014, named the crosswalk after Samara Banks, who died after a speeding driver struck her as she and her four sons walked home in 2013. Only one of her sons, Saa-yon Griffin, survived the collision.

Other speed cameras will rise along the Boulevard at F Street, Devereaux Avenue, Harbison Avenue, Strahle Street, Grant Avenue, Red Lion Road, and Southampton Road.

The cameras will begin recording drivers in February. For the first 60 days after the cameras go up, the PPA will waive tickets and instead, issue a warning to drivers caught exceeding the speed limit by 11 or more miles per hour.

After that 60-day warning period ends in the spring, speeding drivers will get tickets ranging from $100 to $150.  Up to three fines can be distributed over a 30-minute period.

Traffic heads north on Roosevelt Boulevard near East Front Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Petri expects to begin testing the cameras later this month.

Officials said the cameras would be up by the end of 2019 last summer, but a regulatory snag at PennDOT slowed things down. The state agency had to come up with rules for the system. Those rules were published in late December.

“From a PPA point of view, we were ready in November,” said Petri. “Just took a little longer than anticipated.”

Latanya Byrd is a member of Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia and Banks’ aunt. The loss of her niece and great-nephews motivated her to become an advocate for speed cameras on the dangerous thoroughfare.

Byrd told PlanPhilly in December that she feared the cameras would come too late.

“This is a huge risk to have more people lose their lives along that road,” Byrd said. “I see people speeding all the time.”

Tragically, her worries materialized. On December 30, a speeding vehicle slammed into a car causing it to collide with a tree and burst into flames, according to reports. The driver in the car that got hit was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver who caused the collision was taken to an area hospital with critical injuries.

Just days later, another speeding vehicle caused a hit-and-run collision. The speeding driver crashed into two other vehicles before their vehicle caught fire and they fled. Police are still searching for the responsible driver.

Olney resident Edward Then has lived near the Boulevard since 1993. He and his neighbors hear the screech of tires and the bang of car collision often, he said Friday. He says the cameras are long overdue.

“About time they do that around here. It’ll make everybody slow down because you don’t want to get a $100 picture. That’s a very expensive picture, my man.”

Edward Then, 42, of Olney, says he thinks speed enforcement cameras could help make the Boulevard safer. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Boulevard is reputed as the most dangerous road in Philadelphia with 21 fatal crashes in 2018 and nine in 2019.

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