E.P. Council authorizes implementation of school zone speed cameras

Administration can enter into a contract to quell overzealous drivers

By Mike Rego
Posted 11/25/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — Members of the City Council, stressing the severity of the situation, approved a resolution at the body’s November 24 meeting attempting to quell speeding in areas …

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E.P. Council authorizes implementation of school zone speed cameras

Administration can enter into a contract to quell overzealous drivers

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — Members of the City Council, stressing the severity of the situation, approved a resolution at the body’s November 24 meeting attempting to quell speeding in areas around East Providence, specifically in front of school buildings

By a 4-1 vote, the council authorized the office of Mayor Bob DaSilva to enter into a contract with Sensys Gatso Group for “red light enforcement services and automated speed cameras in school zones.”

Ward 4 Council Ricardo Mourato was the lone dissenter, saying he agreed with the premise but had concerns of how money gained from the effort would be used. He suggested earmarking the funds back to the schools or other traffic safety endeavors around the city. No determination was made at last week’s meeting on where the monies gained would be used or where they would be placed.

Per a state law passed by the General Assembly in 2016, speed cameras can be placed only in the aforementioned designated “school zones.”

In introducing the resolution, Council President and Ward 1 representative Bobby Britto called speeding a “pet peeve of mine for a number of years.” He continued, “My concern is speeding isn’t slowing down…It’s dangerous…This is an ongoing problem throughout the city, ive ben dealing with this personally for at least five years.”

Mr. Britto, saying most police traffic data shows drivers doing some 15-20 mph over the posted limits, added, “It’s a concern of mine. It’s a concern of my constituents. It’s a city-wide issue.”

“The straw that broke the camels back,” Mr. Britto said, for him came earlier this calendar when a vehicle jumped the guard rail on Pawtucket Avenue in Rumford, its right side wheels settling over the sidewalk of the railroad bridge used often by pedestrians and children traveling to and from nearby St. Margaret School and Church.

“I don’t know how much I can reiterate my concern about speeding,” Mr. Britto said. “There are times when we’ve put a band aid on it, but we never ever came up with solutions. The conversations I’m having today are the same conversations I had five years ago. It’s time we must act and do something about it, and this is just one way of combating this in school zones, No. 1, let’s take care of our kids. And then lets start refocusing on those cut-through streets and those streets in our community where we can start slowing these vehicles down.”

In response to those in the community who say it’s simply a “money grab,” an attempt to fill the city’s general fund coffers, Mr. Britto said, “It really and truly has nothing to do with the money. It all has to do with the speeding…It’s crazy the speeding that goes on.”

The Ward 1 member pointed to City of Pawtucket, which for years has had strict enforcement, saying statistics there up to as many of 70 percent of those ticketed are drivers from outside that city. Mr. Britto said Pawtucket residents have adjusted over time, and would expect East Providence motorists to do the same. He also said the plan includes a grace period, when first-time offenders would initially receive a warning before a monetary fine.

He reiterated, as well, the cameras would function only during the hours of 7 a.m.-6 p.m. on days when school is in session (Monday-Friday). They would be turned off during the summer, school vacations and on weekends.

Ward 3 Councilor Nate Cahoon was the most vocal supporter of the initiative, saying he was “ready to go.” Based on personal anecdotes, he called Pawtucket Avenue, in his ward especially, a “speedway.”

“I’ve taken to starting to drive my truck at exactly the speed limit on Pawtucket Avenue for no other reason than to tick off speeders,” Mr. Cahoon said. “I’ll go out of my way to drive on Pawtucket Avenue when I don’t have to and drive like ‘granny goodness.’ I don’t care. It’s only a matter of time before something awful happens and then we all have to go home and live with it. I don’t want to live with it.”

Mr. Cahoon said the priorities for speed camera placement should be at Kent Heights School because “It’s right on Pawtucket Avenue. It’s right in the middle of that stretch of road where people hit the gas.” He also suggested a camera be put in front of Martin Middle School, saying he’s too often seen drivers “whip around Brightridge and Brown (Avenues).”

In addition, speed cameras, according to Mr. Cahoon, would not put any more responsibilities on what he called an “understaffed” police department. He also they would limit any potential increase of “high tension interaction” between the public and the police department.

While supporting the effort, Ward 2 Councilor Anna Sousa said, as she has suggested in the past, she would like other velocity reducing components, such as bumps, be used in future attempts at curbing speed.

At-Large Councilor Bob Rodericks asked if the cameras would be placed at all city schools, public or private. Mr. Britto said he would encourage further discussions between the council and the police department as well as giving the school department a strong voice in the program’s implementation.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.