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Why not make the Boulevard safer?


By Tom McCarey

Roosevelt Boulevard could be made far safer tomorrow, and for free. Simply synchronize the traffic lights to 45 mph ending red-light running and speeding. But PennDOT and the city will never do that because it will make the red light and speed cameras unprofitable.

Cameras on the Boulevard extract tens of millions of dollars from the Philadelphia economy every year. All that money goes into the city, the state and camera vendors who then contribute to politicians’ campaigns. The Boulevard will be kept dangerous by the politicians for the profit and the benefit of the camera lobby.

Why hasn’t the subject of synchronizing the traffic lights ever come up, either in Harrisburg, City Hall or the media? Isn’t there one enterprising journalist out there interested in whether this might work? Maybe pose the question to start some dialogue? What is everyone afraid of here? That synchronizing the traffic lights just might make the Boulevard far safer than it is now? That it might save some lives?

It seems to me that if there is any possibility to make the Boulevard safer it should have been tried yesterday. How many lives have been lost because the powers that be have failed to try this simple solution? It looks like all that money is far too important to lose.

The Legislature wants to re-authorize the “pilot” speed camera program on the Boulevard. Not surprising, given how much the cameras rake in. The PPA says the speed cameras are a roaring success, and must be re-authorized. They claim huge reductions in speeding on the Boulevard. But is that true?

We don’t know and we can’t know, because the Legislature, in its wisdom, made camera data top secret, never to be viewed either by the public, or by any independent, unbiased third party that gets no economic reward from the cameras.

Of course the PPA will say the cameras are doing exactly what they said they would. If they don’t say that, they kill the goose that’s laying the multi-million-dollar eggs. The truth about the cameras might also kill the goose.

All over the world speed cameras are making roads more dangerous. But that information is never mentioned in media accounts here. The media reporting to date reads like press releases from the camera companies, not remotely resembling investigative journalism.

The politicians and the camera companies can, up to now, count on the media to be cheerleaders for the cameras. What do we really know? The red light cameras have increased accidents and injuries according to two Philadelphia Police reports, but the city keeps adding red light cameras. Why is that? And why doesn’t the media highlight the red light cameras’ failures?

Maybe the speed cameras are not making the Boulevard safer. Would we be told? Not based on red light camera reportage.

Tell your state representative and senator to vote no on re-authorization of the “pilot” speed camera program on Roosevelt Boulevard. Tell them to synchronize the Boulevard’s traffic lights to 45 mph for a safer highway. ••

Tom McCarey Member National Motorists Association

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