Traffic cameras can expand statewide in Oregon thanks to a bill signed Monday by Governor Tina Kotek.
Currently just ten cities are permitted to use cameras to enforce speed limits — Albany, Beaverton, Bend, Eugene, Gladstone, Medford, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Portland, and Tigard. House Bill 2095 gives that power to all cities in the state. Beyond just the use of cameras use, the bill also eliminates the limitation on the number of hours per day photo radar can be used at any one location. The bill also gives jurisdictions the authority to set designated speeds on certain types of residential streets at up to 10 miles below the statutory speed (provided it’s not less than 20 mph), instead of doing so in increments of five miles per hour at at time (as current law allows).
HB 2095 builds on years of lobbying by City of Portland officials to expand the use of cameras and to give cities more flexibility in how speed limits are set.
At a February legislative hearing, the bill received support from many city leaders. Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty told lawmakers at the Joint Committee on Transportation that cameras have been very helpful in reducing speeds. One stat that jumped out of her testimony was that 75% of the citations were given to drivers who lived outside of Beaverton. “Which tells me that education and awareness is high among our residents, and visitors need to slow the heck down in our neighborhoods.” When it comes to the law that required city transportation engineers to only notch speeds down by five miles per hour at a time, Beaty said, “Cities that want to adjust 10 miles an hour reduction from say 35 to 25 must go through the entire process twice. The two-step process not only adds time and cost to cities looking to improve our own traffic safety; but it makes no sense to community members looking for safer streets.”
One of the chief proponents of HB 2095 was the League of Oregon Cities. Their Legislative Director Jim McCauley said, “All 241 cities should have access to mobile and fixed radar. It’s as simple as that.”
Salem Mayor Chris Hoy said after they installed cameras at three intersections and saw a 51% decrease in red light running and an 87% reduction in traffic crashes (even taking into account increased traffic volume). “Think of what we could do if we could use this tool at more locations,” he shared with legislators in February. “Think of the lives we could save.”
Several concerns were raised about this expansion in camera use. Taylor Steenblock with Mutnomah County said they worry the location of cameras can “be a little bit of a regressive effect.” “Our BIPOC and lower-income communities have been pushed further out into the margins and because they often rely on roads that haven’t had safety improvements and more often rely on [cars], they can be subject to impacts from traffic cameras.”
Joint Committee on Transportation member House Rep. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) voted in support of the bill, but these concerns. “We need to make sure that you’re tracking just how it’s being used, who’s being charged, and how much money is being generated,” he said, citing irresponsible use of the cameras by some Oregon cities in the past.
If cities implement proper oversight and implementation, traffic cameras can be a boon for behavior change and safety on our roads. It will be very interesting to watch how and and if cities across Oregon approach the use of speed cameras.
Learn more about HB 2095 here.