----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, September 19, 2008 8:18 PM
Subject: Edmonds to test red-light cameras

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Edmonds to test red-light cameras

Three busy intersections will host trial cameras

First they were in Seattle, then Lynnwood, then almost everywhere Issaquah, Puyallup, Spokane and now red-light cameras appear headed to Edmonds, at least on a trial basis.

The city approved Sept. 16 the installation of trial cameras at three busy intersections in south Edmonds. 

The intersections include all four directions of 220th Street Southwest and Highway 99; north- and southbound Highway 99 at 238th Street Southwest; and east- and westbound on Edmonds Way at 100th Avenue West. 

If the city ultimately installs the cameras, red-light violators would be subject to $124 fines. The tickets are considered non-moving violations.

There need to be 1.2 violations daily in each direction to justify permanent cameras, said assistant chief of police Gerry Gannon.

The trial will take place within the next month, officials said.

It could be 2009 before permanent cameras are installed, Gannon said.

Advocates believe the cameras increase safety at dangerous intersections.

"If you have a crash in the middle of an intersection, it is usually because somebody was not paying attention to the traffic signal," Edmonds police chief Al Compaan said Sept. 12. "I don't think there's any question that at those intersections where cameras are installed, people are better at taking the traffic signals seriously."

Each of the intersections getting a camera in Edmonds has averaged about one right-angle collision a year, said Bertrand Hauss, a traffic engineer with the city. 

They get crowded during rush hour, and drivers push the limits, Hauss told the council's public safety committee in August. 

"There are probably a lot of near misses at those intersections that we don't even know about," he said. 

Not everybody is in favor of the cameras. For instance, some believe the cameras are used to help cities increase revenue. 

Lynnwood, for example, raised $1.1 million in red-light violations in the first six months after it installed 12 cameras last summer. Seattle also has raised millions.

That isn't Edmonds' priority, Councilmember Deanna Dawson said Sept. 16. 

Some local cities, including Mill Creek and Mountlake Terrace, have considered the cameras but found they didn't want them, or that drivers didn't run enough red lights.That could happen in Edmonds, too. 

"Going through the survey is an important thing to do," Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson said in August. "We may actually find out that we do not have a problem."

In Edmonds, the test cameras would be installed and monitored by American Traffic Solutions, the same company that has installed cameras elsewhere, including Lynnwood. 

If an intersection warrants a permanent camera, the city would have to approve the final installation, but ATS would install and monitor it for free. 

ATS's fee is over $4,000 per camera, but the company takes that money from collected violations, and promises the city will never have to pay out of pocket, said Bill Kroske, the company's vice president of business development.

Eyman and I-985

Tim Eyman's newest initiative, I-985, would probably kill Edmonds' red-light program.

The initiative requires a city to spend all its red-light revenues relieving traffic congestion, not on law enforcement like many cities choose, or reimbursing companies like ATS and their camera fees.

Kroske said if Eyman's initiative passes, the cameras will probably not get installed in Edmonds, and could get pulled from cities across Washington state.

Reporter Chris Fyall: 425-673-6525 or cfyall@heraldnet.com