The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 7, 2013

Traffic cameras focus of proposed DOT rule

DAVID PITT
Associated Press

---- — DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa transportation officials will take on the issue of automated traffic cameras next week with a proposed new set of rules designed to give them control over whether speed and red light cameras are placed on state highways and interstates they oversee.

Iowa is the only state in the nation that allows cameras to be permanently installed along interstate roads or highways managed by the state.

The Iowa Department of Transportation this week published new rules that would require cities and counties to provide proof that there’s a critical safety issue at a specific location before cameras would be allowed. The rules must go through a public hearing process and other steps before they’re finalized.

The first public hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Iowa Capitol when the Administrative Rules Review Committee meets to discuss the proposal. The legislative committee is made up of five Republicans and five Democrats who provide legislative oversight on state agency rule making.

The DOT is accepting written comments and will hold a public meeting at 1 p.m. on Oct. 30 at Hampton Inn and Suites in Ankeny.

The earliest the rules could go into effect would be Feb. 12.

Nine Iowa cities as well as Polk County use automated cameras that ticket motorists who run red lights or exceed the speed limit.

The cities are Cedar Rapids, Clive, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Muscatine, Sioux City, and Windsor Heights.

Several of the cities have installed permanent cameras to ticket drivers on state-run highways or interstates and others use mobile cameras mounted in vehicles parked alongside state roads.

Des Moines uses them on Interstate 235, for example. Cedar Rapids has several cameras along Interstate 380. Sioux City tickets speeders on Interstate 29 and has red light cameras on U.S. Highway 75.

The state has no laws governing their use, leaving the decision to county supervisors and city councils to decide whether to install them. Camera critics claim their use has little to do with safety and is more about revenue.

Cedar Rapids is projected to generate about $4.6 million in revenue in the current year and Sioux City about $2.7 million. Des Moines gets more than $1 million a year.

Law enforcement officials defend their use, saying roads and intersections are safer when cameras are monitoring drivers and enforcing the law.

Iowa DOT officials said since they get no funding from them, their motivation is purely safety. They have concluded that automated cameras should be a last resort safety measure.

“There are lots of things we can do that we should try first and that’s really where the DOT is with these things,” said Steve Gent, director of the DOT’s office of traffic and safety.