Philadelphia poised to add automatic speed cameras to additional roadways

A bill moving through Harrisburg would expand the program to nearly a dozen more locations.

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A pedestrian crosses at the westbound side of Roosevelt Boulevard on at the Banks Way crosswalk

A pedestrian crosses at the westbound side of Roosevelt Boulevard on at the Banks Way crosswalk, Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Philadelphia is one step closer to expanding an automatic speed camera program that traffic safety advocates say will help slow the city’s alarming rate of hit-and-runs.

State lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill out of committee that would make a pilot program on Roosevelt Boulevard permanent while enabling Philadelphia to install similar speed cameras along ten additional high-traffic roadways in partnership with PennDOT. The list could include sections of North Broad Street and Cobbs Creek Parkway, as well as Lincoln Drive and Kelly Drive.

Approved by the Senate Transportation Committee, the amended measure calls for bringing cameras to five additional corridors on a permanent basis and five school zones on a pilot basis. It also includes a provision creating an Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement program and language to install new driver protections and complete a study that would consider further expanding the program to other municipalities.

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The bill, introduced by Philadelphia state Rep. Ed Neilson, must still clear a series of procedural hurdles, but backers say it’s poised to pass as part of budget negotiations taking place this week before the General Assembly breaks for the holidays.

“It’s about saving lives, and [Senate lawmakers] know it too. And they want to make certain that this gets done. So I would say it should be over here, hopefully today,” said Neilson, who chairs the House’s transportation committee.

The bill moves as Philadelphia continues to contend with a traffic safety crisis.

The city’s traffic death rate outpaces most big cities in the country, including New York and Chicago. By mid-November, the city had already surpassed last year’s total for fatal hit-and-runs.

City-held data shows at least 40 people have died in hit-and-runs in the city so far this year, the majority of them pedestrians. That’s more than double the total recorded in 2019, further fueling calls for interventions like building on the automated speed camera pilot, which expires on Dec. 18.

Since 2020, the year cameras were installed on Roosevelt Boulevard, speeding has been down 95% at intersections with cameras, according to PennDOT. The cameras, managed by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, are also credited with saving 36 lives during that span.

“The results are really dramatic. And we also see speeding increasing, unfortunately, across the rest of the city while it’s decreasing on the Boulevard,” said program manager Marco Gorini last month.

Launched by Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration in 2017, Vision Zero is designed to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and severe injuries, as well as improve traffic safety and mobility on city streets.

Gorini has said adding more automated speed cameras will help bolster other program initiatives aimed at making Philly’s streets safer, including an expansion of its Complete Streets program, which is dedicated to installing traffic devices designed to slow down drivers, such as vertical deflection measures like speed cushions and speed tables.

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In a statement, a spokesperson for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia said the bill “significantly advances safety” and “will allow the City and Commonwealth to save more lives on state roads.”

“We look forward to the expansion of this life-saving technology to other dangerous school zones in Philadelphia,” said Nicole Brunet.

Over the last year, Philadelphia has secured more than $200 million in federal and state grants, a lot of which is specifically earmarked for traffic safety initiatives. Some of that money will be used to fund the Complete Streets program.

Increased speeding and reckless driving are the main reasons why fatal crashes continue to exceed pre-pandemic levels, according to Vision Zero’s latest annual report.

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