Speed cameras on Atchafalaya Basin Bridge get House approval
Legislation to install speed cameras on the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge came closer to reality this week with the approval of the House Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works.
Senate President Patrick Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, sponsored Senate Bill 435 to refer to the 18-mile stretch as a “road safety corridor,” a nationally recognized term used for high-mortality areas, based on crash statistics and personal experience on his daily commute to Baton Rouge .
The bill calls for increased signage warning motorists that fines are doubled on the bridge, the site of 229 crashes with two dead and 89 injured last year. SB 435 would also install eight sets of speed limit signs, six sets of signs limiting trucks to the right lane only, and authorize the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to install speed cameras to track drivers.
Cortez said the main problems on the bridge are speeding and trucks driving illegally in the left lane, and the narrow bridge makes it dangerous for police to watch the road from the shoulder.
“What this will ultimately save is…lives,” DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson said Monday. “Because speed kills. Where people are speeding, you tend to have fatalities in crashes and collisions.
“The other thing it does is when you have these fatalities and collisions, it takes up a huge amount of time for people who are stuck on that bridge,” he said. “All of these factors, we believe, will be reduced as a result of this bill.”
Wilson said the DOTD would only collect enough ticket money to cover the cost of running the camera system and would send the bulk of the fines to the two parishes along the route – the parishes of Iberville and Saint -Martin.
Rep. Barbara Freiberg, R-Baton Rouge, noted that speed cameras would only help with the speeding issue, but weren’t able to catch trucks in the left lane.
“I think the best way to solve this … is by law to put up six signs that say trucks are restricted to the right lane, so I think that will help tremendously,” Wilson said. . “I think everyone is going to take this enforcement lane as one to be treated more seriously and driven responsibly, so I think it will be for trucks that are in the left lane.”
Rep. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, shared his frustrations with traveling across the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge and praised Cortez for taking the lead in doing something about the dangerous situation.
Committee members approved SB 435 without objection. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 33 to 0 on April 28.
The measure is opposed by the National Motorists Association, an advocacy group for motorists, for a number of reasons, spokeswoman Shelia Dunn told The Center Square last month.
Dunn noted that while cameras can identify and track a vehicle, “you don’t always know who’s driving the car.”
Dunn suggested “there are a lot of other things they can do” instead of installing speed cameras.
“Something that might be better would be spending money on signs that tell you how fast you’re going,” she said.
Dunn said speed cameras also pose problems with Fourth Amendment rights under the Constitution because “you can’t face your accuser if it’s a camera.”
SB 435 should head alongside the House Appropriations Committee.
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