Saturday, September 4, 2010

New Cameras Pop Up Like Mushrooms

New speed camera sites are going up in Frederick, Montgomery County, Takoma Park, and other places across the state.

The State Highway Administration approved a new work zone speed camera on Route 15 at the intersection with Hayward Road near Frederick.  The speed limit southbound lane in this location is being lowered from 55 mph to 45mph, meaning that citations will be issued at 2mph over the speed limit 'regardless of whether workers are present' according to state law.  The speed limit in the northbound lane remains unchanged.

Montgomery County has approved 25 new camera sites, 1 fixed location and 24 mobile locations.  The mobile locations will be patrolled by a combination of camera vans and portable 'box cams' which are about the size of a large trashcan.  The county held a massive press conference and media rally --- which appeared to have followed the script of the PR and media campaign outlined in the county’s speed camera contract.  The press conference included members of the county government such as Ike Leggett, the head of the County Police's speed camera program who is appointed by those elected officials, representatives of ACS State and Local Solutions (who own and maintain the cameras and receive a cut of every ticket), as well as a representative from AAA Mid Atlantic (AAA presents itself as representing drivers' interests for PR purposes, but their primary business is selling insurance and they have no vested interest in protecting drivers rights).  The county stated to the media that this expansion of the program is about school safety. 11 of the new sites were not in established school zones, and the majority sites located in Montgomery County continue to be located outside of any established school zone(see list and analysis of previous camera sites).

Earlier in August Takoma Park approved two new cameras at 1000 University Blvd and 1000 East-West Highway.  Since these camera sites are located on major state highways so approval from the SHA will need to be obtained.  Takoma Park brought in about $1.28 million in net revenue from its existing camera sites on New Hampshire Ave and Ethan Allen Avenue.

College Park is waiting on approval from the SHA and Prince George's County for new camera sites along Route 123 and Route 1 in a newly created school zone near the university.  Speed cameras are already operating farther south in Mount Rainer and Brentwood near 37th street where the speed limit has been lowered by 10mph from 35 to 25mph just around the camera sites.

The state highway administration is expected to approve College Park's requests. However Prince George's County has been more reluctant to issue permits for cameras on county roads, with a spokesperson for the county DPWT stating they were still hoping to reserve many of its roadways for eventual county-owned cameras.  Any revenue from county run cameras would go into the county rather than the city's coffers.  However earlier this year the Prince George's county government nixed its original plan to add 100 camera sites with County Executive Johnson calling the cameras 'a Tax' and favored a scaled down plan using mobile cameras.  This original plan could still easily be revived... after the elections.

The new cameras ave been added to our speed camera map.  The Takoma Park and College Park locations will added be as well after they receive approval.