Vote clears way for Houston red-light cameras

Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

A divided City Council today approved a contractor to install and maintain cameras for catching red-light violators.

The council split 8-6, ending more than a year of debate about whether the city should monitor Houston motorists and, if so, who should do it.

The vote clears the way for the contractor within a month to begin installing cameras, initially at 10 city intersections.

The measure, selecting Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions Inc., had been delayed several times while another contractor vying for the deal raised concerns about the selection process.

"It's been a long journey on this item," said Mayor Bill White, who first brought the issue to the council in 2004, he said, to improve safety at city intersections.

Critics have charged that the real intent is to raise city revenue through the civil penalties that would be assessed against violators caught on camera. Tickets issued by police officers still would be misdemeanor criminal violations.

Houston police are expected to announce the locations of the cameras within a few days, said Lt. Robert Manzo, a department spokesman.

Police have said they plan to expand the program eventually to 50 intersections.

Council members Michael Berry, Ada Edwards, Pam Holm, Toni Lawrence, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs and Addie Wiseman voted against the deal.