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Speed Camera Expansion Introduced for Henry Avenue

By Lor Song and Randy LoBasso

On Thursday, April 1, 2021, Representative Pamala A. Delissio of the 194th District of Montgomery and Philadelphia County, proposed a reconsideration of Amendment HB 606, which would allow for automated speed enforcement on Henry Avenue in North and Northwest Philadelphia.

This amendment to a related RADAR bill would expand the current automated speed pilot on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia, which was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf in 2018, passed by Philadelphia City Council in 2019, and installed in 2020. Rep. DeLissio introduced this amendment back in 2018, to the legislation that created the Roosevelt Boulevard automated enforcement system, but it was pulled from the bill at the last minute, without her knowledge.

More automated enforcement programs are needed throughout Philadelphia, and the state. In 2020, more Philadelphians were killed in traffic violence in the City than in any year since the early 90s. Of the 158 people killed by drivers in 2020, 30 percent were pedestrians and a quarter were seniors.

There have been 27 traffic related deaths in 2021, compared to 30 at this time last year. Currently, there has been only three traffic deaths on Roosevelt Blvd., which is below average, but obviously still too high. Henry Avenue is an important corridor and in need of interventions, as it, like other PennDOT arterials throughout the city, make up a majority of high-injury streets. Last year, Sam Ozer was killed by a driver while riding his bicycle on Henry Avenue on a particularly unsafe area near Barnes Street in Roxborough.

While automated enforcement is an issue we feel is important for achieving Vision Zero, local police utilizing radar (which is the larger bill the Henry Avenue amendment is attached to) is not. We are aware of how Harrisburg works, and the process of legislation, and understand that this is the best chance, currently, to expand the speed camera pilot onto Henry Avenue.

That said, we will not be supporting this legislation. Road safety should be achieved with fewer, not more, police stops. Most, if not all, the factors that lead to traffic violence can and should be fixed via updates in infrastructure, and automation. Doing that requires thinking outside the box and utilizing solutions that state legislatures around the country are often wont to do (like lowering speeds, alcohol detection systems in cars, and a more equitable automated enforcement program on all streets and roads in cities) but no one ever said bringing traffic deaths down to zero would be easy.

The solution to this problem is standalone enabling legislation that allows municipalities to install automated speed enforcement where needed without state government intrusion. We’re not naive enough to think that’s going to happen soon, especially with the sorts of deal-making Harrisburg is known for, but we are going to continue pushing for such legislation, allowing cities and towns in Pennsylvania to use the best safety solutions available for maximum road safety.

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