ROOSEVELT BLVD.: Can Speed Cameras Tame America’s Most Dangerous Highway?

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SITTING on the House Transportation Committee were State Reps. Michael Schlossberg and Ed Neilson; Minority Exec. Dir. Meredith Biggica; Minority Chairman Bill Keller; Majority Chairman John Taylor; Majority Exec. Dir. Eric Bugalle; and State Reps. Kate Harper, Maria Donatucci and Brian Barbin.

SITTING on the House Transportation Committee were State Reps. Michael Schlossberg and Ed Neilson; Minority Exec. Dir. Meredith Biggica; Minority Chairman Bill Keller; Majority Chairman John Taylor; Majority Exec. Dir. Eric Bugalle; and State Reps. Kate Harper, Maria Donatucci and Brian Barbin.

by Tony West
It was full speed ahead this morning on a pilot program to station speed cameras along Roosevelt Boulevard, as State Rep. John Taylor (R-Northeast) chaired a State House Transportation Committee hearing in City Hall Council Chambers.

Taylor has authored HB 2233, and as he is the chairman of the powerful Transportation Committee while his fellow Philadelphian State Rep. Bill Keller (D-S. Phila.) is the minority chairman, favorable action on the measure is likely.

The speed limit on Roosevelt Boulevard is 45mph, but it is usually honored in the breach. High-speed driving is tempted by the highway’s design, which is regarded as archaic. The result is a ghastly toll of 700 reported crashes a year (many others go unreported), leaving almost 1,000 people a year injured – and killing about one person every month. One out of every eight traffic deaths in Philadelphia takes place on this one road.

“Roosevelt Boulevard has been arguably the most-dangerous and deadliest stretch of roadway in Philadelphia, if not nationally,” testified Jana Tidwell, a spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Red-light cameras have been installed on the boulevard for several years and safety officials state they have helped. But more must be done, testified Police Capt. Fran Healy: “Its driving culture is unacceptable and must be changed.” Most crashes on the boulevard involve speeding, he said.

Deputy Streets Commissioner Mike Carroll explained the math of deadly speeding. At 20mph, 20% of pedestrians struck by a car will be killed. That proportion rises to 45% at 30mph and 85% at 40mph.

Pedestrians are a major problem on the boulevard because it cuts through busy neighborhoods, forcing people to walk across it. State Rep. Ed Neilson (D-Northeast) noted his own district has two schools right on the highway.

ANGIE DELLAVELLA, who witnessed the horrific slaying of a pedestrian by a drunk driver speeding on the boulevard, is flanked by her ward leader husband Bob Dellavella, right, and his colleague Billy Dolbow.

ANGIE DELLAVELLA, who witnessed the horrific slaying of a pedestrian by a drunk driver speeding on the boulevard, is flanked by her ward leader husband Bob Dellavella, right, and his colleague Billy Dolbow.

Angie Dellavella, wife of Ward Leader Bob Dellavella, watched a fellow worker die before her eyes.

“I heard a loud crash as a green truck smashed into another car, and then I watched as a gentleman who was standing at the corner waiting to cross the boulevard was thrown into the air. My heart sank because he was just an innocent bystander waiting to cross the street. What I didn’t know about him was he was going to Self Help Movement [of which which her husband is CEO] to get ready for work,” she recounted.

Councilman at Large Al Taubenberger, a Northeast civic leader, is another victim of the boulevard. “A fellow came into me at a high rate of speed and knocked me into a traffic light,” he testified.

Speed cameras are a component of a national program to reduce highway deaths called Vision Zero. Twenty-four states have used them. Major cities such as New York and Washington have employed them for up to15 years.

Taylor made clear the present draft of the legislation will be revised on the basis of testimony before the committee.

State Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D-Allegheny) said he wanted to make sure the legislation was written broadly enough to cover other dangerous roads around the commonwealth. “We have similar roads in Pittsburgh,” he pointed out.

Most of today’s testimony was positive. But Earle Drack, an executive at a drilling-technology firm, objected that the bill as written does not allow a defense based on the potential inaccuracy of the camera. “It is a significant problem when any legislation contains an implicit assumption as to the accuracy or reliability of a particular technology, especially if [it] has not been subjected to thorough evaluation by independent third parties with sufficient technical expertise to assess such accuracy and reliability,” he testified.

While HB 2233 would only authorize the Roosevelt Boulevard cameras as a pilot program, Carroll observed that was how speed cameras have started out in every other jurisdiction. Once the pilot programs expired, every other jurisdiction opted to make them permanent.

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2 Responses to ROOSEVELT BLVD.: Can Speed Cameras Tame America’s Most Dangerous Highway?

  1. Key points and various bills. THIS WILL SPREAD!

    1. Speed limits too low and not set to the 85th percentile free-flowing traffic speed of US 1. Proper speed limits equal no speeding and more safety.

    2. Tickets go out barely over the speed limit. Some areas are +6 mph, while others are +10 mph or +11 mph, but you will not know which area you are in. This varies by the bill you are discussing.

    3. MASSIVE NUMBER OF ERRORS have occurred with speed cameras all over. Stopped cars have been cited for speeding, wrong car, speed reading wrong.

    4. Crashes have gone up where used or cams had no impact.

    5.Real engineering improvements are NOT being done. These could fix any problems. Things like setting yellow lights longer and more realistic speed limits.

    6. NBC10 (George Spencer) did a damaging story about how bicyclists do not obey traffic laws in Philly. This was also written about by Stu Bykofsky. Further, this was confirmed by a DC news story about the same issue. Maybe this is making US 1 unsafe?

    7. What about jaywalking and other pedestrian lawbreaking on US 1? Why is this never brought up?

    8. None of the people promoting speed cameras have expressed if they currently are or will profit if speed cameras come to Philly.

    9. Odd situation here. The Philly bike group supports ticket cameras of all types, but benefits from them. Look how the city got ARLE grant money from red-light cameras, which was used for bike projects. There are many examples like this.

    10. No way to verify that the speed reading is accurate or the proper car was cited.

    Check out the National Motorists Association.

    LinuxGuy
    September 19, 2016 at 3:20 pm

  2. Police Capt. Fran Healy claims red light cameras have helped. My representative Mario Scavello told me they made no difference. What’s the truth?

    Stephen De Franco
    September 20, 2016 at 11:09 am

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