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Red light cameras go live May 23

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 by Mark Richardson

With a huge traffic signal as a prop, city officials announced that the city Red Light Camera program will go live on Memorial Day Weekend.  However, under close questioning by the media, officials admitted that the program has almost no teeth for enforcing the fines assessed by the automated system.


Council Members Jennifer Kim and Lee Leffingwell were joined by officials from Austin Police and Municipal Court to announce the program, which will put cameras at nine area intersections that will take a picture of the license plate and the driver of a vehicle that runs a red light. They also introduced a public Information program about the red light cameras called “Keep Austin Safe.”


“After a test period, the Council voted back in November to go forward with the Red Light Camera program,” said Kim. “There were more than 1,300 traffic accidents in 2007 involving cars that ran a red light. There have also been more than three fatalities caused by running red lights in the last three years.”


On Friday, May 23, the photo-based system will be activated at the intersection of the I-35 northbound service road and 11th Street.  Nine intersections have been identified for the “Keep Austin Safe” program.  Cameras at these additional intersections will be activated and phased in over the next several weeks.  All red light camera intersections will be identified for drivers with a traffic sign stating “Photo Enforced.”


Once a camera is operational, there will be no “warning period” associated with the violation issued at the intersections.  Police and traffic engineering staff, primarily based on traffic and collision history, chose the locations of the initial intersections selected for the program. 


Violations caught by the cameras are not criminal violations, and will not directly involve APD or the Municipal Court system. A notice of violation will be sent to those running a red light at photo enforced intersections, with a $75 penalty for each violation. A $25 late fee may also be assessed for each violation that is not paid within 30 days.  


Questioned by reporters, Municipal Court Clerk Rebecca Stark admitted that there is little the city can do if a car owner refuses to pay the penalty.  Those who do not pay will be referred to collections agencies, but those agencies will not be allowed to post the delinquencies on the car owners’ credit record.


Officials were also asked if they had studied the problems other cities have had with red light camera systems. Lubbock recently ended its program after statistics showed a marked increase in rear-end collisions at the intersections with cameras. In addition, Dallas recently turned off several of its cameras because they were not generating sufficient revenue for the city to justify operating them.


City officials said they were aware of both situations, and said they would be closely monitoring statistics at the nine affected intersections. They also said that because a contractor for the city is operating the program, there in no concern over how much revenue is generated.


The intersections scheduled to be a part of the red light camera program include:

  • I-35 northbound service road and 11th Street
  • Riverside Drive and Pleasant Valley Road
  • MoPac (Burnet) northbound and Howard Lane/Wells Branch Parkway
  • MoPac (Burnet) southbound and Howard Lane/Wells Branch Parkway
  • Lamar Boulevard at Ben White Boulevard eastbound
  • MoPac southbound service road and U.S. 290 eastbound
  • I-35 south bound service road and 15th Street
  • Lamar and Ben White (or Capital of Texas Highway) westbound/northbound
  • I-35 southbound service road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Information on how the cameras work and answers to other specific questions is also available on the city’s Web site.

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