Traffic cam issue could block safety funding
A state House proposal to put cameras atop traffic lights has threatened to roadblock funding for pedestrian safety initiatives.
The two issues were included in the same bill, but Senate Transportation Chairman J. Kalani English said he will put the pedestrian safety funding into a separate measure, the state budget bill.
This would salvage the funding in case the House and Senate deadlock over the traffic camera issue, said English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai).
Similar bills in the House and Senate would appropriate millions of dollars to promote the safety of pedestrians by installing traffic countdown timers, lengthening crossing time and creating a public awareness campaign.
With this year's increased concern over pedestrian fatalities, lawmakers and members of Hawaii's AARP agree that more safety initiatives are necessary.
On Sunday, 74-year-old Jae Sim of Honolulu died -- the 11th pedestrian fatality this year. A car turning from Kuakini Street struck her Sunday while she was crossing Alaneo Street in Kalihi, an area with several retirement homes.
"AARP feels strongly that improvements are needed so that pedestrians will be safe," said AARP Hawaii Director Barbara Kim Stanton.
AARP members are worried the bills will not pass, especially since a House committee amended Senate Bill 1191 to include funding for red-light traffic cameras. The move has legislators arguing against its passage.
The camera, positioned at intersections, would snap a photo of the license plates of cars that run red lights, according to the bill.
"Many House members didn't like the red-light portion of the bill, and the Senate position was clearly against it as a whole," said Rep. Kymberly Pine (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point).
"People are still weary over (the van cam) system."
In 2002 the Legislature killed a program to catch speeders with cameras mounted in vans after a public outcry.
But Rep. Joseph Souki (D, Wailuku), the House Transportation Committee chairman and the amendment's strongest supporter, said decreasing pedestrian deaths requires deterring bad driving through red-light traffic cameras and improving safety conditions.
"I'm trying to save a life," Souki said.
Conference committees will discuss both bills. While lawmakers cannot seem to agree on SB 1191, there is still potential for House Bill 357.
AARP is fearful that Souki will want to amend that bill to also include the cameras.
However, Souki said because he has not garnered much support from other lawmakers, he will not amend the bill to include them.
Star-Bulletin reporter Robert Shikina contributed to this report.