Congress could ban DC’s speed, red light cameras; District leaders punch back

Some in Congress want to stop D.C. from using speed and red light cameras with a new bill. But District leaders say the legislation that’s advancing in the Republican-led House would result in more people dying on area roads.

While the U.S. Constitution gives Congress authority over D.C.’s laws and budget, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Attorney General Brian Schwalb said current budget restrictions, or riders, put lives at risk.

The $25 billion fiscal 2024 spending bill for financial services and general government, which advanced Thursday, includes restricting the District’s use of automated traffic enforcement. It would also prohibit D.C. from enforcing its ban on “right turn on red” at many intersections.

In a letter to House appropriations leaders, Bowser, Mendelson and Schwalb said the current bill “would interfere in District efforts to reduce traffic fatalities.” D.C. leaders said the provisions “would jeopardize public safety,” and “lead to more deaths on our roads.”

In addition to Congress inserting itself in D.C. policies, if passed, the restrictions would leave a huge hole in the District’s finances.

An automated traffic enforcement ban, would “force the Council and the Mayor to make more than $100 million in budget adjustments,” to its newly agreed-upon budget, which relies on revenue from the cameras.

“Over the next four years, we would need to close a nearly $1 billion hole in the District budget,” according to Bowser, Mendelson, and Schwalb.

It’s not clear when the GOP-controlled House will take up the measure. The Democratic-controlled Senate would likely oppose House bills that restrict how the District enforces its traffic laws.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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