Come September, speeding in some parts of Charlottesville may become a more costly offense.
The City Council is poised Monday to increase the speeding fine by $200 along three Charlottesville streets starting Sept. 1. The current base fine for speeding is approximately $60, with an additional $5 surcharge for each mile per hour above the posted limit.
The three streets being discussed are Old Lynchburg Road, from the city limits to Jefferson Park Avenue; Avon Street, from the city limits to Monticello Avenue; and Altavista Avenue, from Monticello Avenue to Avon Street.
Under Virginia law, the city has the authority to impose the additional fine on any street that has a speed limit of 35 mph or less and that is ineligible for traffic calming measures. Altavista is too steep for traffic calming steps such as speed bumps, and because of city rules, the other two roads are not allowed to have such impediments, officials said.
City officials said the hefty fine is necessary to induce residents to slow down on the heavily used roads.
“This is one more way to attempt to address the speeding concerns in the city,” said Jeanie Alexander, a city traffic engineer. “We hope it will be effective.”
Councilors first debated the proposal earlier this month and decided to not implement the new speeding fine on three roads recommended by city staff: Brandywine Drive, Elliott Avenue and Rugby Avenue.
After a six-month trial, the council would evaluate how the program is working and decide whether to retain the status quo, expand the fines to other streets or drop the additional fines altogether.
Several councilors said during the last meeting that the speeding fines, though a crude tool, would be an effective speeding deterrent.
“I think it would make people think twice about speeding and that’s really what it is for,” Councilor Kevin Lynch said. “The mechanisms we have in place right now are not doing that.”
John Santoski, president of the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association, lauded the idea of increasing fees on Old Lynchburg because it would “send a message” to speeders.
“With all the increased development south of the city, neighbors have seen an increase in traffic and speed,” he said.
Not everyone in the community is thrilled with the idea, though. John Pfaltz told councilors that the best way to curb speeding habits is to beef up the number of police officers who monitor city streets.
“If you don’t enforce the speeding laws we have, raising the speeding fines won’t help much,” Pfaltz told councilors.
The police department has 30 officers certified to conduct speed enforcement. In 2006, the department issued 2,381 tickets and has issued 887 so far in 2007.
Police Chief Timothy J. Longo said that filling vacant patrol positions is a higher department priority than adding more speed enforcement officers.
Though councilors were generally supportive of a trial period, several expressed reservations about the idea. Mayor David Brown questioned if the jump in fines would “place a burden” on low-income residents.
Councilor Kendra Hamilton said that an educational campaign about speeding would be the most effective way to alter residents’ driving habits.
Also on Monday, councilors are set to increase their own salaries, though the move would not take effect until next July. Under the proposal, the mayor’s salary would jump from $12,000 to $16,000, and the salaries of other councilors would rise from $10,000 to $14,000.
The last time councilors raised their salaries was in 2002.