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A bill aimed at making Connecticut roads safer for pedestrians – which includes a pilot program allowing towns and cities to install traffic enforcement cameras – cleared a second legislative committee Monday with bipartisan support. 

The Finance Committee approved the omnibus proposal that is designed to curb the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed by distracted and speeding motorists in Connecticut. 

The bill includes a pilot program to install speed enforcement cameras in a limited number of school, hospital and work zones around the state. It gives municipalities flexibility to set their own speed limits. Other provisions create a citation for opening a vehicle door to impede a cyclist. It also makes it easier for pedestrians to signal their intent to use a crosswalk without needing to step into a roadway first. The bill also hikes penalties for distracted driving and other traffic violations. 

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Click above to vote on HB 5429: AN ACT CONCERNING PEDESTRIAN SAFETY, VISION ZERO COUNCIL, SPEED LIMITS IN MUNICIPALITIES, FINES AND CHARGES FOR CERTAIN VIOLATIONS, THE GREENWAYS COMMEMORATIVE ACCOUNT AND MAINTENANCE WORK ZONE AND SCHOOL ZONE SAFETY ENFORCEMENT

“This may not be a problem everywhere, although I think it’s increasing everywhere, but in urban areas in particular — Hartford has experienced a horrible number of vehicular-related deaths over the last few years in particular,” Sen. John Fonfara, a Hartford Democrat who is co-chairman of the committee, said. “We have to do more.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voted to support the proposal out of the legislature’s tax policy committee. But several expressed reservations about the traffic enforcement cameras. The bill would allow the Transportation Department to use the speed cameras under certain conditions on highway maintenance work zones. It would also allow pilot programs in 10 municipalities to install the cameras to enforce speed limits around schools and hospitals. 

Some on the committee called the bill a work in progress and expressed interest in changing the traffic camera provisions. 

“There are some excellent parts of [the bill],” Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, said. “I know there have been some concerns both on the part of civil libertarians and others with regard to the speed cameras. I do believe this is a work in progress. … There are other issues related to pedestrian safety that are incredibly needed and admirable.” 

Fonfara said the cameras were designed to supplement the work of police officers who cannot be present everywhere to enforce traffic laws. 

“To ask police officers to try to do all of this work is asking the impossible,” Fonfara said. “Unfortunately, many people know that who are inclined to speed or drive recklessly or just blow through stop signs and stop lights. We have technology. There are ways to protect people.”

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Coverage of the 2020 Multimodal and Transit Summit, as well as a follow-up series on related transportation issues, is being partially underwritten by the Transport Hartford Academy at the Center for Latino Progress.

Underwriting is funding for journalism that will be reported and produced independently, without prior review by the funder before publication.