City Council tables traffic camera plan

By David Davis Managing Editor

Published January 23, 2007 11:15 AM EDT

The Cleveland City Council members passed three resolutions Monday and tabled a decision to proceed with the red light cameras at selected intersections.

Resolutions involving Mouse Creek Road improvements, the transfer of trees to the Boys and Girls Club and funding for Phase I of the First Street Square Project of the MainStreet Master Plan were all approved by the Council.

The red light camera proposal to prepare and accept requests for proposals on a red light camera system was tabled until members of the city had a chance to study the report prepared by City Manager Joe Cate.

The report was partly based on a demonstration program at 20th and Keith Streets conducted by LaserCraft Inc. in 2006.

Cate said the traffic engineering staff, Cleveland Police Department and he are convinced the red light camera would fund itself. For an intersection averaging five to 25 citations daily there would be between $1,000 and $23,000 per month generated in surplus revenue based on a flat fee lease program.

According to the report, the purpose of the system would be to save lives by reducing the number of violations and accidents. Cate said the Red Bank city manager is convinced his city is safer.

“Once word gets out about the program, people quit running the light,” Cate said.

He suggested establishing a street safety fund where the money from the cameras could be designated for eligible projects such as guardrails, signage striping, traffic signals, intersection and sight modification and other road improvements.

Cate said establishing a street safety fund instead of putting the money in the city’s general fund should lessen the argument the camera system is a revenue generator rather than a safety program.

If the City Council approves leasing a camera system, staff recommends placing them at 25th Street and Peerless Road, 25th Street and Keith Street, 20th Street and Keith Street, First Street and Keith Street, and Paul Huff Parkway and Keith Street.

MainStreet Cleveland President Nicholas Lillios showed Council members an overview of the First Street Square Project which entails purchasing and demolishing a building on First Street.

Lillios described the former dry cleaning plant as “a bit of an eyesore and a hindrance to the retail potential and loft apartment potential we have in this part of town.”

He said an environmental survey found some contaminants, which is included in the project cost. The city and MainStreet each will contribute $250,000. The city’s share will come from the Capital Improvement Fund. MainStreet will seek donations for its share.

MainStreet Executive Director Sharon Marr said there have already been several commitments totaling $100,000 for the project.

Once demolished, the site would be converted to green space and parking. The plan is to connect First Street with the Courthouse Square that would provide more space for events such as the MainStreet Cruise-In.

“A few of our retailers around the courthouse square have said there are so many events they are having a hard time accessing their businesses,” Lillios said. “The Cruise-In was up to 600 cars this last year.”

Mayor Tom Rowland said, “Once the project is completed, you are going to see a new downtown.”

The Tennessee Department of Transportation will begin a $500,000 repaving project on Broad Street and the city will add pressed brick to crosswalks “to enhance the pedestrian friendliness of downtown,” Rowland said. “We are looking at a traffic signal at Broad and Central to further calm traffic.”

The city could receive $1.8 million to widen a 2.4-mile section of Mouse Creek Road between Paul Huff Parkway and the city limits.

Cate said the designation of the city and county as an urbanized area resulted in an increase of federal funds available for Surface Transportation Projects use. The city must provide a 20 percent local matching funds totaling $458,000.

“TDOT recently informed us there is $1.8 million in STP funds which is not obligated,” he said.

Mouse Creek qualifies for the money because it was one of the long-term goals set by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Cate said the city would need $50,000 in fiscal year 2007-2008 to pay for engineering and design which is expected to take a full year. The proposed design is for a three-lane roadway with sidewalks, curbs and gutters.

Another resolution approved by Council members allowed the Urban Forestry Department to donate trees to the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland as part of their programs.