Traffic cameras are cities' business

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 20 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 11:41 am in
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Gazette Editorial Board

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Legislative efforts to ban or severely restrict the use of red-light and speed cameras in local communities burned out during last year’s session. But some legislators aren’t about to give up.

Several bills have been introduced this session to restrict use of the cameras. One that’s given a better chance of advancing calls for using ticket revenue from the cameras toward the state’s road use fund.

There’s no question that the road fund needs a big boost. Repairs and critical improvements to the state’s transportation system lag $200 million or more annually into the foreseeable future.

But we see no good reason for taking the camera revenue away from local government agencies. This idea looks more like another attempt to discourage cities from making their own decisions on whether and how to use the cameras.

Legislators who oppose the cameras continue to claim that their primary purpose is to extract more money for government. They ignore proven safety results, such as the dramatically reduced accident rate on the I-380 “S curve” through Cedar Rapids’ downtown.

As for the money from fines: If a community’s residents don’t like the way it’s being used, they can pressure their elected officials for changes and use the ballot box as an accent mark.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has yet to address the road use fund head-on. It’s clear that the state fuel tax — unchanged for more than two decades — must be increased. Costs certainly have. And the formula that guides distribution of that fund needs adjusting so higher population areas with much more traffic get a more realistic share.

Legislators should focus on those tough, necessary actions instead of meddling in local decision making.

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