(March 17, 2021) The City of Portland strongly supports two bills in the state legislature that would allow the city to expand its use of fixed speed safety cameras that have already reduced dangerous, top-end speeding by 94 percent on four corridors that have a high rate of traffic fatalities and serious injuries.
The bills are coming up for a hearing the public can view online before the Joint Committee on Transportation at 8 a.m. on Thursday.
HB 2530, with some amendments, would allow the city to use the devices in school zones and as many as 30 high crash corridors. It would allow cities in Oregon with a population of 50,000 or more to use the technology. And it would remove a 2024 sunset date on the program, converting it from a pilot program to a long-term safety improvement.
HB 3357, with some amendments, would remove a provision in state law that requires sworn police officers to review all photo camera citations, instead allowing traffic enforcement administrative staff to review them. A shortage of police officers currently creates a bottleneck, limiting the expansion of the program. 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.
"These cameras have proven to be a cost-effective way to dramatically reduce dangerous driving on our streets," Portland Transportation Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said. "We urge the legislature to allow the City of Portland and other cities to spread the use of this life-saving technology, so we can make more progress on our Vision Zero goal of ending traffic fatalities and serious injuries. This is a great example of how, thinking creatively, we can make our streets safer for everyone, without relying on police for enforcement."
Chris Warner, director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), plans to testify in favor of the bills at the committee hearing on Thursday.
"These cameras are a critical tool in helping us save lives," Warner said. "Every time we have installed these cameras, we have seen a dramatic drop in dangerous driving. We hope the legislature will agree that we should no longer consider this a pilot program. We're also hopeful that the state legislature will join us in making this technology available to cities across Oregon."
Fixed speed safety cameras enjoy strong public support, and provide cost-effective results in safety improvements. According to a scientific public opinion survey, Portland residents overwhelmingly support the cameras on high crash corridors, with 75 percent saying they strongly or somewhat support them. Citations do not generate enough revenue to cover the cost of the program, so PBOT pays about $200,000 a year to cover the cost of the program. If citations did produce net revenue above operational costs, that money is required by state law to be spent on traffic safety projects or programs.
Initial speed studies showed overall speeding of 1 mph or more over the limit decreased by an average 61 percent, and top-end speeding (11 mph or more over the limit) decreased by 87 percent within a few months after the cameras were installed on four corridors in Portland. The drop in dangerous driving was sustained over time. After cameras were in place for two to four years, overall speeding dropped by an average 71 percent and top-end speeding decreased by 94 percent, compared with the period before the cameras were in place.
PBOT leads the citywide effort to achieve Vision Zero, the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities on city streets. With the understanding that all traffic fatalities are preventable, Vision Zero calls for the use of proven safety methods such as photo radar for speed enforcement to reduce speeding -- one of the leading causes of deaths and serious injuries on our streets.
PBOT led the effort to change state law in 2015 to allow Portland to use photo radar for speed enforcement.
Learn more about Vision Zero, the City’s effort to end traffic deaths and serious injuries, at visionzeroportland.com
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is the steward of the city’s transportation system and a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage, and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides access and mobility. Learn more at portland.gov/transportation