After years of failed legislative attempts, governor vetoes and lengthy legal reviews, the path has finally been cleared for the installation of a red-light traffic camera at one of The City’s most dangerous intersections.
The former site of the Central Freeway, the intersection at Market and Octavia streets has long been a trouble spot for pedestrians and cyclists, many of whom are hit by motorists making right turns off Market Street.
To help prevent those accidents, state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, proposed adding an enforcement camera at the site to catch drivers making illegal right turns. The legislation was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010 on grounds that it was unnecessary, so Ammiano requested a legal opinion from the City Attorney’s Office. The office cited concerns about cameras enforcing right turns — in the past they’ve only been used for red-light running — and passed over the ruling to state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
On Thursday, after months of review, Harris issued a decision saying the cameras can be used at Market and Octavia streets.
“This has been a hot mess,” Ammiano said. “I’m just glad it’s finally over, because this camera will really help reduce fatalities and injuries.”
In 2011, there were 10 injury collisions involving bicyclists and pedestrians at the intersection, the highest total in The City. Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said the red-light cameras are long overdue.
“There have been some physical improvements to Market and Octavia, but this enforcement mechanism will really make people think twice about making that illegal turn,” said Shahum.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees traffic policies in The City, is still determining how to implement the program. The agency will first identify funding sources, determine the scope of the project and then put a contract out to bid, said spokesman Paul Rose. Once that’s completed, the agency will have a better grasp on when the traffic cameras will be installed.