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State considers changes to let Seattle, others expand use of traffic cameras

(SDOT)

A pair of bills currently in the Washington State Legislature would allow cities like Seattle to expand the use of automated traffic enforcement cameras.

RELATED: Seattle traffic cameras could turn attention to bus lanes

The bills were heard in the Legislature Monday. House bill 1793 and Senate bill 5789 both expand the use of traffic enforcement cameras to issue tickets for a broader range of traffic infractions.

Democrat Sen. Marko Liias explained the bill in detail.

It’s really designed for those places where it’s really difficult to get a patrol officer there to provide one more tool to make sure folks aren’t blocking intersections, blocking pedestrian facilities, [and] blocking those bus only lanes. Especially in parts of Seattle, it’s really tough to get a patrol officer there to police the law, because we’ve got space constraints — I think this is really just a common sense way of making sure people our observing those laws.

The proposals would allow automated enforcement cameras to nab drivers in bus only lanes, or blocking intersections, crosswalks, and emergency vehicle lanes.

Liias says tickets would be about the same as red light tickets that come from the cameras, which currently set you back about $136.

“And just like the red light infractions, it’s not considered a moving violation when the camera issues it, so it’s more like a parking ticket or something like that,” he said.

Liias says the goal is to ease congestion and change habits, not bring in money.

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“Moving people efficiently into the city in those transit only lanes is really important especially at rush hour, and if there’s a car that’s blocking that transit only lane (for) buses carrying hundreds — sometimes thousands — of people, that’s going to affect the commute for a lot of people,” Llias said, adding that blocking the box, crosswalks, and other dedicated emergency lanes can have the same effect.

Under Liias’s bill, the active Transportation Safety Account would be created in the state treasury.

Money collected from drivers caught under these new camera violations would have to go into that account, and may only be spent after appropriation to fund grant projects or programs for bicycle, pedestrian, and non-motorist safety improvements administered by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

If this passes it would not just be Seattle that can expand the automated cameras use; all municipalities would be permitted to do the same.

“I expect Seattle certainly taking the lead on piloting this technology they want to be at the forefront,” said Liias. “But I think we’ve got these transit lanes up in Snohomish County that support our Swift line — I could envision at some point in the future that it would make sense to do enforcement in places like that as well.”

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