News Release: Legislature hears plea for safety cameras pilot program on Portland’s High Crash Corridors

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(March 9, 2015) -- The House Transportation and Economic Development Committee heard testimony today on legislation that would authorize the City of Portland to create a pilot program for unmanned photo radar safety cameras on its urban High Crash Corridors.

The City of Portland is seeking this authority to combat the frequent serious and fatal crashes on these roadways, and to educate and encourage safer driving by the traveling public. The 10 designated High Crash Corridors make up just 3 percent of the City’s road network, but they account for more than 50 percent of pedestrian fatalities in Portland.

House Bill 2621 is sponsored by Representative Jeff Reardon, whose district includes parts of East Portland that are crisscrossed by several High Crash Corridors.

“I am deeply saddened by the number of traffic fatalities in East Portland each year,” Rep. Reardon said. “My hope is that House Bill 2621 will keep our community safe by reminding drivers that when they speed on these high-crash corridors, they put their neighbors' lives at risk.”

The committee heard testimony from Kristi Finney-Dunn, whose son was killed on SE Division Street, one of the streets where cameras could be placed if the bill passes.

“On August 12, 2011, my son Dustin was killed one of Portland’s High Crash Corridors,” she said. “Since that day, I have been a traffic safety advocate, fighting for transportation safety measures like HB 2621 to save other families from the pain mine has suffered.”

Mary Lee Turner, retired rehabilitation instructor for the Oregon Commission for the Blind, said cameras could improve safety by leading more motorists to follow the speed limit.

“As a lifelong legally-blind pedestrian in our community, it is increasingly critical that all people -- motorist, pedestrians, and cyclists -- using public roads know and abide by the laws. That’s why I’m testifying in support of HB 2621, so that we have the greatest chance of safety for everyone.”

Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees PBOT, said the cameras are an important safety measure the legislature should allow Portland to try.

“Speed kills. The likelihood that you will die if you are hit by a car is directly related to how fast the car is going,” Novick said. “This is one tool that we can use to slow people down and reduce the number of traffic deaths and injuries.”

Leah Treat, the Director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, testified to the committee, sharing her commitment to eliminating serious and fatal crashes from city streets. At her direction, PBOT has adopted the goal of eliminating all traffic fatalities, an approach known as Vision Zero.

“Speeding is a top contributing factor to fatal crashes in Portland metro region, second only to DUII,” Treat said. “Many cities, including Seattle to our north, and Chicago and Washington, D.C. where I served previously, are successfully using unmanned photo radar to curb dangerous speeding. I feel it is an important tool to change behavior, improve safety, and reduce fatalities and serious injuries on our roads.”