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Philadelphia red-light camera fines benefit other towns

That red light you ran on Roosevelt Boulevard? That $100 fine you paid, after you were caught by the red-light camera?

That red light you ran on Roosevelt Boulevard?

That $100 fine you paid, after you were caught by the red-light camera?

You'll be glad to know your money has been put to good use. In McKeesport, Aliquippa, Scranton.

Gov. Corbett announced last week that $8.4 million had been given to 106 Pennsylvania communities for transportation projects, thanks to Philadelphia's red-light cameras and the fines they produce. After the Philadelphia Parking Authority's red-light camera operating expenses are covered, half of the remaining money goes to Philadelphia and half to the rest of the state.

McKeesport, in Allegheny County, got $300,000 to replace its traffic-control system. Aliquippa, in Beaver County, got $12,800 for a school-zone flashing light. Highspire, in Dauphin County, got $218,000 for traffic-control upgrades. Scranton, in Lackawanna County, got $75,000 for left-turn signals.

Philadelphia is the only place in the state allowed to have red-light cameras. But regulators at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation decided to require a 50/50 split of the fines, because that's how nonautomated red-light fines have traditionally been divided: 50 percent for the municipality and 50 percent for the state.

PennDot spokesman Richard Kirkpatrick said the agency had conducted an extensive review of the issue, heard arguments for and against letting Philadelphia keep all the money, and decided the payout should "mirror the nonautomated red-light-running violation process."

From the inception of the Philadelphia red-light-camera program in 2005 through June, fines produced about $28.4 million. More than half that - $15.4 million through June - went back to the parking authority to pay for the cost of operating the cameras and fining motorists.

The remaining $13 million, plus $3.7 million raised this fiscal year, is being divided evenly between Philadelphia and the rest of the state.

A Philadelphia legislator says he'll try to change that.

State Rep. Michael McGeehan, ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee, said he would introduce legislation to extend the camera program beyond this year, when it is set to expire, and direct the revenue from fines to Philadelphia alone.

"It is my general sense that the majority of people paying the fines associated with this program are residents of Philadelphia, which leads me to conclude that the funds should remain with the city to enhance safety," McGeehan said.

Rina Cutler, Philadelphia deputy mayor for transportation, said her preference "would have been to keep the revenue in Philadelphia and use it for safety programs." But she said that "after many years of negotiating the release of those funds, I am pleased that we are getting about $8 million for safety projects in Philadelphia."

Philadelphia has not designated how it will use its share of the money, which is expected to go toward signal improvements, better pedestrian crossings, and other safety projects.

If other cities are permitted to use red-light cameras, Cutler said, money from their fines would also be put into a statewide pot that Philadelphia could share in. Philadelphia now has red-light cameras at 19 high-risk intersections.