Snohomish County to add traffic cameras
By Bill Sheets
Herald Writer
EVERETT — Snohomish County has decided to join the ranks of cities and counties that use cameras to catch speeders and drivers who run red lights.

It's not yet known how many cameras would be installed or where.

The county plans to look at places where cameras could work, such as busy intersections and school zones, and have some in place by September for the beginning of the 2010-11 school year.

The county plans to request bids from camera companies beginning this week, County Council Chairman Mike Cooper said Friday.

Whichever vendor is selected will study high-volume intersections and school zones in unincorporated parts of the county and suggest some locations for cameras, Cooper said.

“It's going to take us a few months,” he said.

The council, County Executive Aaron Reardon and Sheriff John Lovick all agreed the county could adjust its 2010 budget to pay up-front costs for installing the cameras.

Still, the system is expected to pay for itself by issuing more tickets and collecting more fines.

“As far as the county is concerned, it's revenue-neutral for us,” said Christopher Schwarzen, spokesman for Reardon.

Cooper said the idea arose out of a visit by himself, Lovick and a county staffer to Hazelwood Elementary School near Lynnwood at the beginning of the school year. Problems with drivers speeding and failing to stop at crosswalks had been reported there.

The sheriff's office increased traffic patrols in the area to start, but Cooper said he and Lovick agreed that cameras could provide a longer-term solution.

“More and more children are walking to school now because of budget cuts (for school buses), so we need to do everything we can to keep them safe,” Lovick said in a written statement.

Lynnwood began using cameras in June 2007 to catch traffic violators. It's currently the only city in Snohomish County that does so.

American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz., which provides Lynnwood's system, has similar systems in place in nine other cities in Washington, including Seattle, Bellevue and Spokane, spokeswoman Teresa Benton said. It also has systems in 16 other states and Canada.

Tacoma uses a system provided by Redflex Traffic Systems of Phoenix, Ariz.

Lynnwood has 10 red-light cameras at eight intersections, police spokeswoman Shannon Sessions said. At the beginning of the school year, cameras were installed on 44th Avenue W. near Lynnwood Elementary School and on 168th Street SW near Meadowdale High School and at three other schools, Sessions said.

Bugs are being worked out in the school-camera setups — when that's done, the cameras will operate only when lights at crosswalks near the schools are flashing.

Statistics weren't immediately available, but Sessions said the system pays for itself and works well for the city.

“It's preventing car accidents and pedestrian incidents,” she said.

Cameras photograph the rear of the vehicle and a citation is sent to the vehicle's registered owner. Infractions are treated like parking tickets and do not go on the registered owner's record because the camera does not show who is driving the car.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439,