Red light cameras stream green outside Philly

It's no secret that lawmakers outside of the southeast regularly pillory Philadelphia as that gaping hole into which state money is poured.

But now consider that fines paid by drivers who speed through red lights in Philadelphia are funding roadway improvements far beyond City Line Ave. - millions of dollars have supported transportation projects in 106 other municipalities, among them McKeesport, Aliquippa and Highspire. (We dare say places many Philadelphians have never heard of, let alone visited.) 

Since the program started in 2005 some $15 million raised in Philly has gone elsewhere.

Under the law, after the cost of running the program - in which 70 cameras were stationed on Roosevelt Ave. - is covered, 50 percent goes to Philly, the other half to far-flung municipalities, according to a reportby last spring by the Inquirer's Paul Nussbaum.

Sound fair?

The matter came into focus this week with the House giving final passage to extending the pilot red light program, meaning Philadelphians will continue to help fund transportation projects in places they've never heard of. Gov. Corbett has said he will sign the bill.

Efforts by Rep. Michael McGeehan (D., Phila.) to amend the law to allow Philadelphia to keep all the revenue have so-far failed.

We can't help but think about the meaning of "impact fees" during this discussion.

How is it that Philadelphia has to share its traffic fine largesse with municipalities that have incurred no impact from Philadelphia drivers?

Sound familiar? The word "impact" has been at the heart of the unresolved debate over the Marcellus Shale natural gas tax, dubbed an "impact fee" by skittish Republicans. 

Gov. Corbett and others have argued the fee should go only to the municipalities where drilling is occurring. Others argue that the full state bears the cost from industry-related environmental impacts and therefore gas proceeds should be spread throughout the state.

(See acid mine drainage, the toxic legacy of the state's coal mining era.)

For now Philadelphia drivers, consider that penalty for speeding through that light on Roosevelt your gift to residents in places you can't locate on a Pennsylvania map.

 

 

 

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