Town considers speed cameras on bordering roads

Mayor says equipment would be placed at busier sites outside of town

by David Hill | Staff Writer

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The University Park Town Council introduced legislation Jan. 4 that, if approved, would allow the town to set up its own speed cameras. While there are no current plans to put them on town streets, the council could eventually negotiate the placement of its cameras along county and state roads bordering the town.
"[The legislation] does not mean that we have to do this," said Mayor John Tabori. "All it means is that it authorizes us to be able to do so."
State laws allow counties and municipalities to place speed cameras on their respective roads within a half-mile of any school. The cameras detect and fine motorists a maximum of $40 for travelling 12 or more miles per hour above the posted speed limit.
University Park is likely to consider cameras on county-owned Adelphi Road and state-owned Route 1 and East-West Highway, Tabori said, all of which border the town. Town officials would need state permission to put cameras on state roads, but Town Attorney Suellen Ferguson said laws aren't entirely clear on requirements for county roads.
"There's nothing stated in the state law about that," said Ferguson, adding that she's inclined to believe the town would likely need county permission. Susan Hubbard, spokeswoman for the county's Department of Public Works and Transportation, said municipalities are required to seek county permission for cameras on county roads.
Town officials have long complained of high speeds and frequent accidents on the three roads they are targeting, and town police said speed cameras would be a welcome addition.
"A lot of times we can't be where we need to be," said University Park Police Lt. Wayne McCully. "Any type of automated enforcement is good."
If the town installs the cameras, it would collect as much as 10 percent of their total revenue, which it would be required to use on public safety.
The Prince George's County Council voted in November to install speed cameras on county-owned road in 50 school zones over the next two-and-a-half years, but County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) nixed the plan Jan. 7, saying the cameras would function as an unpopular "extra tax" on residents.
Tabori said town officials have not yet determined whether the county's decision will affect their approach. He conceded that speed cameras have some flaws — he said the 12 mph limit is too lenient on roads with especially low speed limits — but added that the cameras have safety benefits.
"The idea behind speed cameras is you really want people to slow down," he said. "In my mind, that outweighs the revenue issue."
Tabori said the council will likely vote in February whether to approve the ordinance, and wouldn't set up any cameras until May or June at the earliest. He added that the time preceding the vote would allow residents to provide feedback on the proposal.
"The people who are most likely to be affected by a speed camera are the people who pass through it most often, which would be town residents," said Town Councilwoman Susan McPherson (Ward 3). "I would like to have the town voice their opinions and have it be a meaningful one."
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