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Seattle ‘block the box’ bill dies in committee in Olympia

A King County Metro bus blocking the box in Seattle at a red light. (MyNorthwest photo)

A bill proposed in the Washington State House that would have allowed Seattle to install cameras to catch and ticket drivers who block intersections died in committee Wednesday.

RELATED: Seattle seeks camera enforcement for blocking the box 

HB 1793, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, would have given Seattle permission to install a handful of cameras to photograph license plates of drivers blocking intersections at stop lights, and illegally driving in bus lanes.

A 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline to get it to a floor vote in the House came and went, effectively killing the measure for this legislative session.

According to Seattle Times reporter Heidi Groover, Rep. Fitzgibbon faced opposition to the bill from Republicans and Democrats alike, citing concerns over “disproportionalities in enforcement.”

Fitzgibbon attempted to address those concerns by amending the bill to limit cameras to downtown streets and select arterials, a move that evidently wasn’t enough to assuage doubts.

In the 11th hour, the Transportation Choices Coalition issued an “action alert,” urging people to send feedback to their legislators in support of the bill.

“HB 1793 will help keep intersections and bus lanes clear, improving safety and transit reliability. When crosswalks and curb ramps are blocked, people walking or using mobility devices are forced to navigate around cars, often into moving traffic lanes,” the alert read.

Seattle officials first pursued the legislation due to issues in enforcement that traffic cameras would be tasked with fixing.

“Enforcement is a real challenge, and frankly, it’s not realistic to hire police officers to be at every single intersection and every single bus lane during rush hour and policing this,” Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien said back in January. “They have more urgent things to be working on.”

The failure of HB 1793 to make it out of committee ends a months-long saga that proved controversial for many across Western Washington. Rep. Fitzgibbon plans to reintroduce the bill for the next legislative session in January 2020.

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