The city and the Colorado Department of Transportation are at odds over where the traffic enforcement cameras should be placed. In the past, city officials say the state was willing to allow the devices on their right of way.
(TNS) — When city officials decided to install new photo systems to catch red-light runners, they were naturally interested in busy roads such as Federal Boulevard and Colfax Avenue.
But the city’s newest cameras won’t be on those notorious roads. The Colorado Department of Transportation rejected Denver’s requests to place cameras on either, a decision that frustrated city leaders.
Instead, Denver is set to install cameras at three new locations:
East 13th Avenue and Lincoln Street
West Alameda Avenue and South Santa Fe Drive
East 18th Avenue and Lincoln Street
The Denver City Council will consider the expansion at a meeting next month.
This is the first expansion of Denver’s “red light” camera system since it was created in 2008. The system watches for people who run red lights, stop in the crosswalk and make illegal left turns, allowing the city to mail out citations for $40 to $80.
The city can install the cameras on local streets, but it needs CDOT’s permission on state roads like Colfax and Federal — and CDOT doesn’t seem to agree with the city about where the cameras are most effective.
“It’s a huge concern of ours, and it’s something we’ve talked to the mayor about,” said Skye Stuart, the city’s legislative director for Mayor Michael Hancock’s office. “We have struggled over the years with the state (on this issue), frankly.”
In the past, CDOT wasn’t willing to allow the equipment on state highways, according to Stuart. The department now seems reluctant but more receptive, she said.
The systems attract criticism from state legislators and others who see them as invasive, money-grabbing devices. The legislature voted twice to ban the systems in Colorado; Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed both bills. And Aurora voters recently banned the devices.
The Denver Police Department argues that photo systems encourage drivers to behave better. Citations at the program’s current intersections have dropped consistently since 2008, with overall reported decreases ranging from 6 percent to 61 percent.
Some studies have found a drop in fatal and injuring crashes, but researchers also have shown a correlation with rear-end crashes as people hit the brakes. A federal study found a “modest” economic benefit.
Councilman Paul López thinks Federal Boulevard, one of the city’s deadliest roads for pedestrians, would be a natural fit.
“Even though we know that those are dangerous intersections, why don’t we deploy them there?” he said at a recent meeting.
In recent months, CDOT rejected three of Denver’s requested locations for cameras: Alameda and Federal, Colorado and Colfax, and Colfax and Monaco.
The department’s analysis found that red-light cameras would not improve the “crash pattern” at two of the locations, according to spokesperson Tamara Rollison. At the third intersection, Colfax and Monaco, CDOT suggested that Denver should first try pruning vegetation and other changes.
Typically, the camera systems are meant to cut down on T-bone crashes, where someone blows through a light and into the flow of traffic, Rollison wrote in an email. But there’s no evidence that the systems improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, she wrote.
The Denver Police Department, on the other hand, published a video last year showing pedestrians’ close calls at intersections.
The city contracts with Conduent State & Local Solutions, a spinoff of Xerox, to run the program.
The expansion of the camera program will cost the city an additional $1.2 million, for a total photo enforcement budget of $7.8 million for a five-year period. The contractor is paid a certain amount for each intersection rather than per ticket, according to contract documents.
With the council’s approval, Denver also will add a new photo enforcement vehicle to ticket speeders, for a total of six of that type of camera in addition to six sets of red-light cameras at intersections.
The city reported $4.1 million in revenue from speed-camera tickets and $1.2 million from red-light camera tickets in 2017, meaning Denver makes money on the program.
The red-light cameras already operate at:
6th Avenue and Lincoln Street
8th Avenue and Speer Boulevard
36th Avenue and Quebec Street
Cameras currently at 6th Avenue and Kalamath Street will be moved to one of the new locations.
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