Iowa commission restricts use of traffic cameras

New rules require justification studies, annual reviews and other regulations communities must follow

Mike Wiser
Published: December 10 2013 | 4:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:42 am in
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AMES The Iowa Department of Transportation is one step closer to having more say where automated traffic enforcement cameras are placed in the state.

The Iowa Transportation Commission unanimously adopted new rules requiring justification studies, annual reviews and other regulations communities must follow if they want to place cameras on primary roads. The commission met Tuesday at IDOT headquarters in Ames.

The proposed rules have at least one more panel to clear before they can take effect.

Whether the rules put to rest the annual arguments in the state Legislature to ban or otherwise restrict cameras remains to be seen, but the new rules clearly have their critics among the municipalities that have traffic cameras in place.

"I don't know how you can have a public meeting without allowing public comment," said a clearly frustrated Davenport Police Chief Frank Donchez, who traveled to Ames for the meeting but was unable to present his case in front of the commission. "The cameras are a tool for us to increase safety, and they have. The intersection of Kimberly and Brady before the cameras was the third-highest in the state for crashes, it's now 26th."

Davenport, Sioux City, Cedar Rapids and Clive are some of the communities whose police chiefs have lobbied against the proposed rules.

Commissioner Amy Reasner of Cedar Rapids asked several pointed questions during the meeting and seemed most skeptical among commission members about the changes. She defended the use of cameras in her community along an infamous S-curve on Interstate 380 and said she thought the rules were written in a "way that says you're never going to get (a camera)."

But she later said the department made a compelling case for its proposal.

"If it was a ban, I would say, 'Let's have a ban.' It's not," IDOT Director Paul Trombino III said.

David Rose, a commissioner from Clinton, said the question goes beyond safety.

"If you remove the cameras, you remove the revenue some of these communities depend on," he said.

"This gets to the core of the issue," Trombino said. "The pitches these (traffic camera) companies make is all about revenue. It's revenue disguised as safety."

The proposed DOT rules say:

  • Traffic cameras should be considered only after other engineering and enforcement soluctions have been explored and implemented.
  • Traffic cameras should not be used as a long-term solution.
  • Communities wanting traffic cameras must file a justification report. Those reports are required to list the critical safety issues involved, what other remedies were discussed and what other solutions have been implemented.
  • Communities that have traffic cameras must file an annual evaluation with the state on why the systems were installed and whether they are meeting those goals.

"The reports are not just for the DOT, it's for everybody," Trombino said. "You can put these reports up online, and people can say, "Oh, that's why we have the camera.'"


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