Smile speeders! Photo radar bill headed to Governor’s desk for signing

Smile speeders! Photo radar bill headed to Governor’s desk for signing

SW Barbur Blvd observations-14

Speeding on SW Barbur Blvd.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

After many people had already begun their holiday weekend, the Portland Bureau of Transportation chalked up a major legislative victory.

HB 2621, which will allow PBOT to operate fixed photo radar cameras on Portland’s deadliest major streets, passed the Oregon Senate on Friday afternoon by a vote of 17-12. The bill now heads to the desk of Governor Kate Brown for signing.

PBOT Director Leah Treat said via email today that she’s “very happy” the bill passed. “As the City is implementing Vision Zero,” she wrote, “automated speed enforcement should prove a critical tool in getting drivers to slow down.”

Friday’s vote capped a dizzying week of activity for the bill. On Monday morning it hadn’t even pass out of committee in the House.

The bill allows the City of Portland to install photo radar camera units (a pair of cameras, one for each direction) only on High Crash Corridors. Here’s how the bill defines them:

“urban high crash corridor” means a segment of highway that has an incidence rate of reported traffic crashes resulting in fatalities or serious injuries that is at least 25 percent higher than the rate for highways with the same speed limit or designated speed within the jurisdiction on average between January 1, 2006, and January 1, 2016, and for which the governing body of the city makes a finding that speeding has had a negative impact on traffic safety.

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Treat says the first cameras won’t go live until July 2016. By 2018 PBOT plans to install a total of 20 sets of cameras.


Slide from a presentation given to the legislature by a PBOT lobbyist.

We haven’t yet received a list of the specific intersections where the first cameras will go; but a PBOT presentation given to a legislative committee included these locations:

  • SW Barbur Blvd. at SW Miles St.
  • SE Division at 148th
  • SE Division at 156th
  • SE 122nd at Stark
  • NE 82nd and Davis St. (Vestal Elementary School)

Other streets on PBOT’s High Crash Corridor list include; SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, Burnside, Sandy Blvd, SE Powell, SE Foster, and NE Marine Drive.

Once all 20 cameras are operational, official estimates say the program is likely to reduce speeding by 61 percent. At that rate, PBOT says they’ll save 16 lives and prevent 1,800 injuries over the next six years.

The revenue from citations issued by the new cameras is estimated to be $22.6 million in the first biennium and nearly $50 million per year by 2021. The bill states that this new revenue can only be used for operating and maintaining the cameras, “and for improving traffic safety for all modes of transportation.”

HB 2621 was PBOT’s top legislative priority this session. As pressure to make streets safer reached a boiling point in the community over the past few months, city leaders — including PBOT Director Treat, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick, and Mayor Charlie Hales — repeatedly encouraged activists to contact lawmakers and tell them to support the bill.

Treat has said the ability to use photo radar cameras is one of the initiatives that, “can make the most immediate impact” on achieving Vision Zero. In addition to catching speeders, she also hopes the cameras will deter aggressive driving.

Stay tuned for more coverage.

— Learn more about this bill in our archives and read the full text here.

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