Commissioner Hardesty Testifies to Change State Law to Expand Speed Safety Camera Deployment

News Article

On Thursday, February 3rd, Portland’s Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty testified to the Oregon State Legislature in favor of House Bill 4105 with the –1 amendment.

House Bill 4105-1 would help Portland and other local cities operate traffic-camera systems more effectively by allowing a “traffic enforcement agent” to review and issue tickets. These agents would receive special training and certification, similar to the city's parking enforcement officers.

The bill would remove a provision in state law that requires sworn police officers to review all photo camera citations. This would relieve police officers of some time-consuming administrative work, enabling them to spend more time on patrols in the community and responses to emergency calls from the public.

The need to focus police officers on 911 calls currently creates a bottleneck, limiting the expansion of the speed safety cameras program led by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). Allowing administrative staff to process the citations would free up police time for emergency response and create a more efficient system that doesn't rely on police overtime.

“Since becoming Transportation Commissioner last year, I have heard an overwhelming desire from Portlanders to bring more speed safety cameras to our streets. Changing this state law will pave the way for the expansion Portlanders are calling for,” said Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees PBOT.

Commissioner Hardesty continued, saying, “This law change will increase our traffic enforcement capabilities while freeing up police resources so they can focus on responding to 911 calls and homicides.”

Last year was a historically tragic year for traffic violence locally and across the country. Estimates of traffic related fatalities throughout the United States in the first half of 2021 showed the largest six-month increase ever recorded. Traffic deaths in both Portland and in Oregon reached numbers not seen since the early 1990s.

“All these deaths are unacceptable as we pursue a goal of zero traffic related deaths in Portland. Investing in safe street design accompanied with appropriate enforcement will be vital to mitigating these deaths” said Commissioner Hardesty.

Last June, Commissioner Hardesty passed an emergency budget amendment that allocated $450,000 towards rapid street safety improvements on Portland’s highest crash corridors. Almost all those projects have been completed, except where supply chain issues have caused delays.  

“The supply chain delays on our current outstanding order for speed safety cameras has been frustrating. We are making sure that we are prepared to get these cameras out on our streets as soon as they arrive.”  

This morning's testimony marks the 2nd occasion where Commissioner Hardesty has testified to Salem lawmakers to preserve and grow Portland’s speed safety camera program.

You can listen to Commissioner Hardesty’s testimony starting at the 20 minute mark online.

Bill would help with red-light running and speed enforcement

The bill, as amended, would apply to two types of traffic-camera citations: red-light running and speeding. Portland operates red-light cameras at nine intersections across the city and the first cameras went into service in 2001. In 2016, Portland installed the first of eight fixed speed safety cameras, which operate on four high crash corridors.

While cities across the US have slowed speeds and improved safety with stationary speed safety cameras, Portland is the only city in Oregon currently allowed to use this technology along a corridor. Portland and other cities in Oregon are able to use traffic safety cameras at intersections, where they can enforce red light running and speeding through the intersection.  

House Bill 4105-1, with the amendment, would allow cities to decide if police officers or the new traffic enforcement agents process traffic safety camera citations from fixed speed safety cameras, red-light running cameras and intersection safety cameras.  

Portland and other cities use speed cameras installed in mobile vans – and staffed by police – for speed enforcement. The bill does not change that program.