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  • By: Kevin Leckerman, Esq.
  • Published: April 24, 2015
A security camera against a blue sky - Leckerman Law, LLC

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania legislature is seriously considering the use of speed-enforcement cameras and alcohol-triggered ignition locks as inaction by Congress poses a threat to highway projects statewide.

The announcement was made by state officials on Tuesday in which Leslie S. Richards, the action Transportation Secretary, and Democratic leaders of the House Transportation Committee told business and transit executives that funding boosts approved by state lawmakers in 2013 could be undermined by Washington gridlock.

According to Richards, if Congress fails to act before the funding authorization for the federal Highway Trust Fund expires on 31 May, it could pretty much “erase the good work that Act 89 has done.” The state law was enacted in 2013 to increase transportation funding by raising state gasoline tax and vehicle fees.

As per the stated figures, Pennsylvania gets $1.6 billion a year in federal transportation funding, which is almost 40 percent of its capital budget.

Richards also predicted that if Congress does not come up with a long-term fix to the problem by May, it would likely enact another stopgap measure to keep money flowing to the states, which means transferring money from the general fund to the highway fund.

The highway fund which gets its money from the federal gasoline tax was increased in 1993 last. There is very little support to raise that tax to increase funding under the Obama administration.

According to chairman of the Transportation Committee, State Rep. John Taylor (R., Phila.), legislators are considering legalizing cameras in highway work zones so they could automatically ticket any drivers who exceed the speed limits. Currently, Maryland is using such cameras which could be a model for Pennsylvania. However, he acknowledged that speed cameras are controversial like red-light cameras. Lawmakers also need to assure that these cameras are only used as safety tools and not for money-raising.

Legislators are also seeking to toughen drunken driving laws in the state by proposing mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices in vehicles of first-time DUI offenders. An ignition interlock device requires drivers to blow a breath sample to detect their blood alcohol level before they start the vehicle. Currently, the state only requires repeat drunken-driving offenders to install the device in their vehicles.

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