Area communities ponder red-light-camera programs

Posted: June 20, 2013

Communities in the region that now are eligible to install red-light cameras at troubling intersections are proceeding with caution.

Gov. Corbett signed a bill in July permitting municipalities with more than 20,000 residents and a state-accredited police agency to install the controversial cameras.

The cameras have been in use in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and elsewhere in the country, to mixed reviews.

In Springfield Township, Delaware County, one of the towns that qualifies under the Pennsylvania bill, the Board of Commissioners has delayed making a decision as it weighs public safety against potential public resentment, said Police Chief Joseph Daly.

Springfield is the only qualifying town in Delaware County. The Montgomery County towns that meet the criteria are Norristown and the townships of Abington, Horsham, Lower Merion, Lower Providence, Montgomery, Upper Dublin, and Upper Merion. The only two in Bucks County are Middletown and Warminster Townships. No town in Chester County met the criteria.

The state has removed incentives for municipalities to use the fines to enhance revenue. Once local expenses are covered, the money would go into a state fund. Municipalities then could apply for grants to improve road conditions and other related projects.

"If it stops one person from getting injured," said Springfield's Daly, "it is worth it." He said safety was his primary motive in moving ahead on studies to install cameras.

Springfield received three bids for the service, ranging from $4,250 to $4,500 for each camera. While the township proposed four intersections to the vendors for study, it will ultimately be the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that decides where the cameras go, Daly said.

Lower Merion's plans also are still on the drawing board.

"No action has been taken at this point," said Michael J. McGraw, superintendent of police. He said the township wanted to make sure it could benefit from the program. Officials have held three public meetings on the subject, he said.

"It will be up to the Board of Commissioners to give the green light or not," McGraw said.

In Abington Township, while no final decision has been made, officials have approved the project in concept, authorized the needed ordinance, and are moving ahead with proposals, said Deputy Police Chief Michael Webb. They have identified three intersections - Old York Road at Susquehanna Road, Old York and Old Welsh Road, and Welsh Road and Fitzwatertown Road. Abington officials said there was no evidence the camera program would reduce aggressive driving.

In New Jersey, the pilot program that enabled 25 municipalities to install cameras at 76 intersections will end in December 2014. No new installations are planned for at least 20 months. In Philadelphia, 111 cameras have been installed.

Overall, studies show, rear-end crashes increased and right-angle crashes decreased at intersections with cameras.


Contact Mari A. Schaefer at 610-313-8111 or mschaefer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @MariSchaefer.

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