Boulevard speed cameras near City Council approval

Legislation setting up speed cameras on the Roosevelt Boulevard moved out of committee last week and could receive final approval later this month.

Latanya Byrd testifies Thursday, May 2, during a City Council hearing on a bill to install speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard. Four of her family members were killed in a 2013 crash on the Boulevard. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

A City Council bill providing for the installation of speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard cleared another hurdle Thursday and could receive final approval later this month.

Council’s Streets and Services Committee unanimously agreed to move the bill forward after hearing testimony from transportation and safety advocates. The full Council could pass the bill as early as May 16.

“Automated speed enforcement saves lives,” said Christopher Puchalsky, of the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability. “This pilot program is not about issuing tickets, but about changing behavior to preserve human life.”

The cameras will be set up along the entire 12 miles of the Boulevard, from 9th Street to the Bucks County line. Anyone caught on camera going 11 miles an hour or more over the speed limit will be issued a ticket.

A fine of $100 will be levied against drivers going more than 11 but less than 20 miles per hour over limit, according to the bill. Those traveling 20 miles per hour over the limit will get a $125 ticket, and 30 miles an hour or more will carry a $150 penalty.

There will be a 60-day grace period after the cameras are set up when violators will receive a warning notice. Warning signs for the automated system will be positioned all along the Boulevard.

The legislation does not detail exactly where the cameras will be installed.

Drivers with three or more outstanding tickets may get towed or booted, which is the same procedure as the red-light cameras currently in place.

The program will be administered by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, and each ticket must be authenticated by a police officer who has inspected the images, according to the legislation.

Latanya Byrd testified at the hearing. She became a traffic safety advocate after her niece, Samara Banks, and Banks’ three young boys were killed in a 2013 crash on the Boulevard at 2nd Street.

“My mom lost two generations that night, and she just wanted to know why,” Byrd said, holding back tears.

Former State Rep. John Taylor speaks Thursday, May 2, at a City Council hearing on a bill to introduce speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard. He helped push legislation in Harrisburg to allow for automated enforcement. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

Retired state Rep. John Taylor, who worked to get the speed camera bill through the state legislature, also spoke about the crash, which led to charges for two drag-racing drivers.

“Speed was the only reason — certainly, recklessness as a result of the speed — but that was the reason that family was killed,” Taylor said. “If we can try to prevent that, I think we should.”

“I can assure you that the first couple months of this people will be agitated, but I can speak personally,” he added. “I’m on that Boulevard all the time, I need to slow down.”

Between 2013 and 2017, 62 people were killed in Boulevard crashes, according to Puchalsky. He said increasing safety on the Boulevard is key to the city’s “Vision Zero” plan to eliminate traffic deaths.

No one at the hearing testified against the speed cameras.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation last October authorizing a five-year speed camera pilot on Roosevelt Boulevard and in work zones across the state.

Ninth District Councilwoman Cherelle Parker introduced the city speed camera bill, and it is being co-sponsored by Councilmembers Darrell Clarke, Cindy Bass and Maria Quinones-Sanchez. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com