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US House Democrats Seek Government Funds For Speed Cameras
Federal transportation reauthorization measure would use taxpayer dollars to subsidize the roll out of speed cameras nationwide.

House Transportation Committee
The US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Wednesday will review sweeping legislation that would, among other things, encourage local governments to set up speed cameras using federal taxpayer dollars. The move would reverse a ban on federal funding for both red light cameras and speed cameras that has been in place since 2015.

The House Democratic leadership's proposed transportation reauthorization measure, dubbed the Invest in America Act, provides for a half-trillion dollars in spending with a new emphasis on passenger rail, public transit, cycling and walking infrastructure. It also adds a provision gutting the ban on taxpayer funding of speed cameras.

"Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), a state may expend funds apportioned to that state under this section to carry out a program to purchase, operate, or maintain an automated traffic system in a work zone or school zone," the proposal states.

The federal government played a key role in the early development of red light cameras and speed cameras with the US Departments of Transportation (US DOT) and Defense providing critical seed money for their development prior to 1997. Five cities that were among the early adopters of photo enforcement were paid to do so by the Federal Highway Administration, including Beaverton, Oregon and Washington, DC.

The situation is different today, as photo radar firms offer "turn key" automated ticketing services for municipalities that require no public funding. In return for the right to issue citations on a city's behalf, the company will install and operate the cameras and collect the citation money, depositing the funds in a city-designated bank account minus the photo enforcement firm's cut (whether in the form of a percentage of revenue or a fixed fee). The offer of federal funds would merely increase the city's cut of the ticket profit.

The Invest Act would also require the US DOT to begin studying school bus stoparm cameras and issue a report to Congress on their performance within two years. The 2015 Fast Act had previously required the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to collect performance data sufficient to judge the effectiveness of speed cameras and red light cameras from each state, but the agency has allowed states to, for the most part, ignore the legal requirement and send in unverified survey responses containing incorrect and incomplete data. Results in 2020 continued with states submitting check-box forms devoid of performance data.

Florida, the only state besides Missouri to take the report seriously, did offer accident numbers. The state noted there were 12,211 accidents at red light camera intersections, an increase of 17 percent from the 10,410 accidents that occurred prior to camera installation. Both rear-end and angle crashes increased.

The Senate's version of the transportation reauthorization bill, which was drafted with input from Republican senators, does not contain the provision encouraging the use of speed cameras.

A copy of the full 1249 page bill is available in a 3mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File HR 3684 (US House of Representatives, 6/4/2021)

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