Street-camera proposals wooed
Wednesday, June 07, 2006

SPRINGFIELD - The city is seeking proposals from private companies to install cameras at various intersections, intended to deter and to crack down on motorists who run red lights.

The city is asking companies to detail how they would establish a red light camera program and provide related services such as notification of violations, processing violations, equipment maintenance and public education.

Proposals are due by 2 p.m. June 21, at the Purchasing Department at City Hall.

The company selected would work with the Department of Public Works and Police Department in choosing possibly 10 or more locations for the cameras, officials said. A five-year contract is being offered with the city having the option to renew the agreement.

"It is to create a safer environment and a sense of security in the downtown and neighborhoods," said Philip Puccia, executive director of the Finance Control Board.

Proponents and opponents disagree on the effectiveness of the cameras to improve roadway safety, and some opponents say the camera program violates civil rights.

As planned in Springfield, the cameras would take a photograph of the car as it begins to go through a red light and take a second photograph as it continues through the intersection.

The company would initially view the photographs to consider if it meets the criteria for a violation, but an officer would make the final decision to issue or not issue the citation, according to the Request for Proposals.

The cost to implement the program would be funded by a portion of the revenues from citations, Puccia said. Currently, there is a $100 fine for going through a red light, with the city and state sharing the revenue.

The companies submitting camera proposals must detail their experience in other communities and show how it can be implemented best in Springfield, officials said.

The Request for Proposals states in part: "Automated enforcement has proved to reduce the number of serious collisions and serious injury collisions at intersections.

"It is critical that the program be administered with quality assurance and sensitivity to the public."

A report by the Federal Highway Administration in January of 2005 states: "Red light cameras can be a very effective countermeasure to prevent red light running." Various studies show a reduction in crashes related to the cameras, the report stated.

More than 95 communities nationwide used red light cameras at the time.

In 2003, there were 206,000 red light running crashes nationwide, resulting in 934 fatalities and 176,000 injuries, according to the report.

The National Motorists Association, a grassroots organization based in Wisconsin that promotes itself as a protector of motorists rights, has criticized red light cameras, saying there is no proof the cameras improve highway safety.

"With properly posted speed limits and properly installed traffic-control devices, there is no need for camera-based traffic law enforcement devices," the association states.