Red light cams prompt spirited comments in Dubuque - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Red light cams prompt spirited comments in Dubuque


The issue of red light cameras has been a heated debate in cities throughout eastern Iowa, and the conversation continued at the Dubuque City Council meeting Monday night.

Council members held the first reading of an ordinance that would allow automated traffic enforcement (ATE), also known as red light cameras.

About 75 people packed into the Dubuque City Council Chambers. The topic that brought many of them out was the issue of automated traffic enforcement.

"Various cities in Iowa have implemented automated traffic enforcement systems," City Manager Mike Van Milligen said, reading material for the agenda item. "Davenport reported a city-wide 9.5 percent accident reduction rate, and Cedar Rapids reported an accident reduction rate of 22 percent."

Dubuque police chief Mark Dalsing gave a presentation in favor of the cameras.

"This is just something we hope to use that will discourage accidents - not just in the areas with the enforcement systems are in place, but throughout the city," Dalsing said. "We hope that people will change their driving habits, be more aware that these are out there and drive safer to make Dubuque a safer community."

City Traffic Engineer Dave Ness used a PowerPoint presentation to highlight the ways in which the city has tried improving traffic conditions in recent years and why he thinks it's time for the cameras.

"You don't want to use red light cameras until you feel like you've exhausted your engineering resources," he said. "When these don't work, you move on to finding other solutions."

The Mayor opened the matter up to public comment, and council members heard arguments on both sides of the issue.

Tom Zaber approached the podium to read a prepared statement he wrote in favor of the cameras.

"Red light cameras at our most dangerous intersections are the best solution," he said, "and I applaud the city staff for their action plan to make our streets more safe."

Steve Helminiak was among those against the cameras.

"I think it's a slippery slope that we're taking," he said. "I think it's upon the citizens and the police department to enforce these violations, not cameras. I believe it's a revenue source, and I'm against it, and, respectfully, I hope you vote against it."

Several people in the crowd held up signs protesting the cameras.

According to city information, the red light and speed violations caught on camera would be civil -- not criminal -- infractions.

Each red light citation would cost a driver $80. Speeding ticket costs would depend on how fast the driver was traveling.

The tentative camera company, Redflex Traffic Systems, would pay for the installation and operation of the cameras. The city says the company would get $29 per citation in return.

In order for the ordinance to pass Monday, the city council needed six of its seven members to vote, "yes." That didn't happen, so the second of likely three readings will probably take place sometime in August.

The city attached supporting documentation to its automated traffic enforcement agenda item, including a FAQ about the cameras.

Links to those items are here:

Automated Traffic Enforcement Memo

Police Memo

The Ordinance (NOTE: City manager Mike Van Milligen said at Monday's council meeting that this final ordinance has since been amended to remove the fine for 1-5 mph over the speed limit. He said unless a driver is in a school or construction zone, he or she won't, generally, be cited unless driving 11 or more miles over the limit.)

ATE Citizen Petition 12/5/11

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