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You might not like it, but Pennsylvania might expand use of speed cameras

This long exposure photo shows traffic driving on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia on May 25, 2022.
Matt Rourke
This long exposure photo shows traffic driving on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia on May 25, 2022.

Ed Neilson believes the right decision is not always the popular one, but if it saves one life it is worth it.

“We’re elected to make hard decisions, and this is one of those hard decisions that no one’s going to like, including myself, but it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

The Philadelphia Democrat and chair of the House Transportation Committee is sponsoring legislation to extend and expand the use of automated speed enforcement systems across the state.

These programs use cameras to enforce speed limits with tickets sent in the mail.

Currently, such systems are allowed only in construction zones and along Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia, one of the most dangerous roads in the state.

While the programs cause more tickets to be issued, studies show they led to 95% fewer speeding violations and a 21% reduction in fatal injuries on Roosevelt Boulevard.

The legislation seeks to expand the program to all roads in Philadelphia.

Speed cameras in work zones have also seen a reduction in fatal crashes, according to PennDOT.

They are also scheduled to expire soon. The work zone enforcement is set to end on Feb. 16, and the Philadelphia speed enforcement will expire on Dec. 18 — one week after the final week of session.

Neilson said he is not perfect when it comes to consistently obeying the speed limit, but programs such as these can hold drivers like himself accountable for violating the limit.

“Our job here in Harrisburg is to change that kind of behavior and this works,” he said.

According to Neilson, the programs operate at a loss of $2.5 million, but the intent of them is not to bring the state more cash.

“This is about saving lives,” he said. “It’s not about what it costs, because if it makes no money, that’s a good thing.”

The legislation also intends to create a pilot program for school zones due to a lack of crossing guards.

“We have less police to help our children cross the street,” he said.

The pilot program will start in Philadelphia, though there are negotiations over the amount of school zones to be used.

Alexis Campbell, press secretary for PennDOT, said the department is working with the legislature to make sure the work zone program continues.

Neilson said there have been talks about expanding the automated speed enforcement program statewide.

The bill is now in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Neilson said he has been working with the chairs of that committee — Wayne Langerholc Jr., R-Cambria, and Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna— to move the bill forward.