INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Long after the Christmas decorations come down, drivers on Roosevelt Boulevard will still need to heed its many red lights.

Yesterday, the state House voted to extend funding for the cameras that identify drivers running red lights at the boulevard's most dangerous intersections. The Senate previously approved the extension, which Gov. Rendell is expected to sign.

The program, which has been credited with sharp reductions in injuries and fatalities since its introduction nearly two years ago, would continue at least through 2011 under the bill. It would have ended next year.

The cameras first went up Feb. 23, 2005, at Grant Avenue, followed by the Red Lion Road and Cottman Avenue intersections. By the next year the number of drivers running red lights was down 93 percent at Grant, 72 percent at Red Lion, and 52 percent at Cottman.

As a result, the program has been expanded to the boulevard intersections at Levick, Mascher and Rhawn Streets, and at Southampton and Welsh Roads.

There are 52 traffic-light intersections on the Roosevelt Boulevard.

The $100 fines collected from drivers whose license plates are spotted running the red lights help fund the project, which costs about $5,000 a month, according to the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which runs it.

Local lawmakers beat back efforts to redirect some or all of the fines to Philadelphia's public schools, which would have meant shutting off some or all of the cameras. Traffic-safety experts called the proposal ill-advised.

"This is good news for motorists. The red-light camera program is a critical safety device along the boulevard," said Catherine L. Rossi, manager of public and government affairs for the Mid-Atlantic American Automobile Association. "The program is a safety tool, not a revenue tool."

Reps. George Kenney and John Taylor, Philadelphia Republicans who voted for full funding, yesterday called it "critical to saving lives."

"This is a program that works well and saves lives," said Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

But Rep. Tony J. Payton Jr. (D., Phila.), who had sought to see some of the revenue turned over the school district, criticized the vote. What the General Assembly did "was say 'no' to the students of Philadelphia," he said.

The camera program was conceived after a study by State Farm Insurance Co. in 2000 concluded that the boulevard's Red Lion Road and Grant Avenue intersections were the second and third most dangerous intersections in the nation, due largely to drivers running red lights.

Contact staff writer David O'Reilly at 215-854-5723 or doreilly@phillynews.com.