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Lawmakers set to reintroduce red light camera bill for Milwaukee pilot program

By Ben Jordan,


Some state lawmakers are reintroducing legislation this week that would allow Milwaukee to install red light cameras across the city.

Similar efforts have failed to garner enough support from Republican lawmakers each of the past six years.

Proponents of the 2023 ‘Safe Roads Save Lives Act’ say it’s the same exact bill that’s failed year after year, but authors claim support is growing on both sides of the aisle.

"I'm going to try to get wheels under it,” said Rep. Todd Novak. "I'm going to push it and so my hope is it will pass."

Rep. Novak is the mayor of a small city that has just two stoplights in southwest Wisconsin. He’s using his platform as a Republican state lawmaker in the legislature to try to bring red light cameras to the largest city in Wisconsin.

“Why do you have interest in this given that your district is nowhere near Milwaukee?” TMJ4’s Ben Jordan asked.

"I understand the situation with the running of the red lights, some major accidents, and so I was all on board with this to try to help them as a Republican, help Milwaukee with their problems,” Rep. Novak replied.

Rep. Novak says Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley brought the idea to his attention back in 2017 and he signed on as one of the bill’s few Republican supporters. Flash forward to this year and she’s a co-author of the legislation with Democratic Rep. LaKeshia Myers of Milwaukee.

"It's one of those bills that’s not a Republican bill or a Democrat bill, it's better to put it out together,” he said.

State law currently prohibits the use of red light cameras to enforce traffic laws. This bill would let Milwaukee launch a five-year pilot program to test the effectiveness of up to 75 cameras.

Rep. Novak says drivers caught on camera going at least 20 m.p.h. over the speed limit or running a red light would get a fine in the mail. TMJ4

“What would it take to convince your fellow members of the GOP to buy in on this?” Jordan asked.

"I've already started having conversations with some of my Republican colleagues, especially in the Milwaukee area. And a concern I keep hearing is they're afraid it's not going to catch the bad people,” Rep. Novak said.

Celia Jackson with the Coalition for Safe Driving MKE is concerned about who would be most impacted by the fines.

“It will result in some disparity for a number of people because it is a punitive measure and it really isn't dealing with the issues at the source,” she said.

Jackson thinks red light cameras would only be an effective deterrent if they’re installed in concert with several other reckless driving solutions such as bringing back universal driver’s education in schools and doubling down on traffic calming infrastructure upgrades.

"We probably will be able to impact a small group of people who are the offenders, but there's another group that are really more egregious that we very well may not be capturing and they are really what's driving this conversation at the end of the day,” Jackson said.

The bill being introduced is just the first step in a lengthy process in order to pass the state legislature. To start, the bill’s text is being sent to every state lawmaker to garner support and get co-sponsors.

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