Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said Wednesday he is confident the city will have no trouble proving the value of its traffic enforcement cameras in the face of proposed rules by the Iowa Department of Transportation that would require local jurisdictions to justify the use of traffic cameras.
“I don’t think it’s going to change the system at all because we’re going to meet the justification clause,” Corbett said.
DOT officials have created an application process that requires a six-part justification for the implementation, placement and use of automated traffic enforcement systems.
The standards include provisions relating to motorist safety, signs and effectiveness.
“We believe they will promote their safe and consistent use and application. That’s really the overriding intent,” DOT Director Paul Trombino said.
“The rules create a process to help determine if speed or red-light systems are the appropriate safety countermeasure.”
Body copy ragged right: Trombino said existing systems would be subject to the evaluation process.
Fixed and mobile traffic enforcement devices are being used to monitor vehicle speeds and red-light compliance on portions of state highways, city streets and county roads in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Fort Dodge, Muscatine and Sioux City as well as several jurisdictions within Polk County.
The state does not own, operate or receive compensation for any automated traffic enforcement system in Iowa.
The new rules will be considered by a legislative panel next week, then go out for public comment before proceeding to possible implementation by next February.
“The rules will ensure placement does not cause unnecessary distractions or obstructions for motorists that could cause unsafe situations,” Trombino said. “Our belief is that automatic traffic enforcement systems should be used as a last resort after other safety measures have been exhausted.”
Under the 10-page plan, any fixed or mobile enforcement system that receives DOT approval would be evaluated annually to determine its effectiveness on public safety and driver compliance with traffic laws.
On Wednesday, Corbett pointed to the effectiveness of the city’s 11 traffic enforcement cameras. He cited the lack of fatal crashes on Interstate 380 — where four cameras have been placed — since their implementation, as well as the reduction of crashes in high traffic intersections that have cameras.
“I think that our cameras will meet the guidelines the state is putting forward,” he said.
Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said the new DOT guidelines, if approved, likely will have some effect on the city’s traffic cameras, which are actually owned by the city’s vendor, Gatso USA Inc. What effect, however, remains to be determined. Jerman said hasn’t had a chance to review the proposed regulations, but said he is not concerned. “I think we need to look at all of the points in the proposal and then go from there,” Jerman said. “We haven’t had a real good chance to go through them.”
Since their implementation three years ago, the Cedar Rapids cameras have resulted in 333,935 citations and $17.1 million generated in fines.
Continued use would be contingent on the effectiveness of the system, appropriate administration of it by the local jurisdiction, changes in traffic patterns, infrastructure improvements, continued compliance with state rules and implementation of other safety counter measures. Under the rules, DOT would have the discretion to require the removal or modification of a system in a particular location.
“I think the rules bring equity and fairness ultimately and a neutral perspective to the process,” said Trombino, who noted his agency has worked with local jurisdictions over the past year to establish a consistent statewide policy governing the use of automated traffic enforcement on roadways under DOT authority.“What it recognizes is there needs to be a more organized process so the citizens know how the decision gets made and — when the decision gets made — it’s really for safety. Right now I think it’s a cloud if not a disguise at times, unfortunately,” he added. “Those safety counter measures should have nothing to do with revenue,” Trombino said. “At times, from my perspective, I think it is a disguise from a safety perspective, and it’s really about revenue. I think even some of the communities have acknowledged it in some cases.” Under the DOT guidelines, automated traffic enforcement systems only will be considered in school zones or areas with a documented high-crash or high-risk location, or an intersection with a significant history of crashes attributed to red-light running or speeding.All automated enforcement systems located in a vehicle must be owned and operated by a law enforcement agency.
The rules do not attempt to establish a uniform fine schedule, which is a local ordinance issue, Trombino noted.The DOT director said the new rules were developed with input from local jurisdictions that operate traffic cameras. Asked if he anticipated any resistance to his department’s proposal, Trombino said: “I would say yes.”
Interested persons may submit written comments or suggestions on the proposed rules before 4:30 p.m., Oct. 31, to Tracy George, Iowa Department of Transportation, Office of Policy and Legislative Services, 800 Lincoln Way, Ames, IA 50010, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. A public hearing is set for 1 p.m., Oct. 30, at the Hampton Inn and Suites, 3210 SE Convenience Blvd., Ankeny.
Corbett said the city will have representatives at the public hearing.
“We implemented these cameras for one reason — to make our high traffic areas safer,” he said. “That’s what we’ve done.”
Comments: (319) 398-8238; email@example.com, (515) 243-7220; firstname.lastname@example.org