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Seattle ‘block the box’ bill could get second life in Olympia

(MyNorthwest photo)

A bill that would have allowed Seattle to install cameras to ticket drivers for blocking intersections and driving in bus lanes was thought to be dead in March, after it fell short of a key voting deadline. Now, it could be on its way back to the House floor.

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“We are working on giving it new life,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon told KIRO Radio.

The bill was moved out of a key committee Wednesday night, and advocates in the Legislature are now working to see if it has the votes to get out of the House.

In a new version of the legislation, it was amended to narrow the focus of the cameras from allowing them statewide, to cities with a population over 500,000. Seattle is currently the only city in the state that fits that criteria, with a population of over 760,000.

Spokane is the next closest, with just over 224,000 people.

For cities west of the Cascades with over 195,000 people in counties under 1.5 million, the legislation would allow the operation of a single traffic safety camera for speeding violations (essentially, all but King County).

Additionally, the updated bill would only have cameras issue fines for the “second or subsequent violation within a five-year period” for blocking the box, driving in bus lanes, and stopping in emergency vehicle lanes.

No fine would be issued for first-time offenders.

Rep. Fitzgibbon faced opposition to the bill in its early stages from Republicans and Democrats alike, citing concerns over “disproportionalities in enforcement.”

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

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.”

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