Leadfoots, beware!

Photo radar is on its way to Oregon City — Milwaukie and Gladstone, too.

That’s the word from local State Representative Carolyn Tomei in Salem, who sits on the transportation committee. She pushed for the change in a bill approved by the House and Senate and now awaiting the governor’s signature.

“We tried to get this through before, but there are a lot of people in the Legislature that are opposed to it,” said Tomei. “I’m very excited about it. Because we have less funding for police officers, we need all the help we can get.”

West Linn Police Sgt. Neil Hennelly said West Linn has not signed on as a city in line to get photo radar. He said the costs related to the radar stations, which require an officer to monitor the equipment inside a van, did not make it feasible.

“It’s a pretty expensive thing for the system to operate,” Hennelly said, “as opposed to the photo red light system, where it’s all automated.”

Different from the fixed cameras located across the Portland metro area that are used to issue citations to motorists who run red lights, photo radar is mounted on a marked police unit, and photographs passing vehicles that exceed the posted speed limit.

Speeders snared by photo radar can expect to receive a citation in the mail after about a week.

By law, the system must be monitored by a uniformed police officer while in operation, and can only be used for four hours a day in any one location.

“All the studies show that it’s a great help in getting people to slow down,” Tomei said. “It passed unanimously out of the transportation committee.”

Photo radar can be used on residential streets or near schools, or in any other location where a municipality has found excessive speed has had a negative impact on traffic safety. Highways are excluded.

“We take our photo radar vans to places where we get a high number of citizen complaints, or a high number of accidents,” said Sgt. Brian Schmautz with the Portland Police Bureau, which operates two of the systems. “Traffic related problems are always one of the highest priority issues for the citizens of Portland.”

Milwaukie, Oregon City and Gladstone join seven other cities across the state previously authorized to use photo radar, including Albany, Beaverton, Bend, Eugene, Medford, Portland and Tigard.

West Linn employs several different tactics: including the obvious, police patrols, and interactive speed signs that display a driver’s speed while passing by.

The bill made several other changes to the law governing photo radar, requiring signage indicating that “Traffic laws are photo enforced,” and specific warnings displayed at least two feet above ground level on the road where the system is operating.

It also authorizes the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Oregon State Police to operate photo radar units in work zones — including state highways, but not interstates.

Under the measure, the cities receive no funding to pay for the technology, which must be purchased with local funds.

The Tigard Police Department, for example, has the authority to use photo radar, but has never deployed it.

“We did an analysis a couple of years ago, and it just didn’t pencil out for us,” said Jim Wolf, the department’s public information officer.

Nonetheless, Tomei is confident the change will benefit local cities.

“I really think this is going to be a good thing for Milwaukie, Oregon City and Gladstone,” she said.

Dan Itel, Tidings editor, contributed to this report.