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College Station delays red light cameras

College Station delays red light cameras

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College Station's plans to install red light cameras will be delayed because of pending legislation that imposes new requirements on cities, officials said Monday.

The cameras were first discussed by the College Station City Council in November as an option to improve safety and provide another resource to enforce traffic laws. Since then, the Texas Legislature has passed three bills related to intersection cameras.



Traffic Bills

Recent bills passed by the Texas Legislature require municipalities to:

• Conduct a traffic engineering study at each proposed red light camera location to determine if design changes could reduce the number of red light violations before installing cameras. Also, a citizen committee must be appointed to make recommendations to the city council about operation and installation of red light cameras.

• Install signs at least 100 feet from the intersection indicating the presence of the camera and explaining that violations result in a monetary penalty.

• May not use cameras to enforce compliance with posted speed limits.

The legislation may be signed or vetoed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry by June 16.

One bill requires the city to conduct a traffic engineering study at each proposed location - before installing the cameras - to determine whether design changes could reduce the number of red light violations. The bill also requires the City Council to appoint a citizens advisory committee to offer recommendations on installation and operation of the camera system.

Gov. Rick Perry has until June 16 to sign or veto the bill. If approved, it becomes effective Sept. 1.

City officials originally were planning to install the cameras in August, but that might not be possible because of the new legislation, City Attorney Harvey Cargill said Monday.

"You can see how this might set us back a while," Cargill said. "If [Perry] signs the legislation, we have to do what state law says, and each council member is going to have to appoint an advisory board member. A lot of times they want to put out applications. I don't know how long that's going to take."

The intersection studies also could be time-consuming, Cargill added.

Installation will take up to 45 days once the vendor is given the go-ahead, but regardless of when the cameras are implemented, a "grace period" will be allowed before citations are issued, Cargill said.

The vendor with which the city is negotiating, American Traffic Solutions, has recommended that red light cameras be installed along Texas Avenue at the intersection of Walton Drive, Harvey Road at the intersections of Munson Avenue and George Bush Drive and Wellborn Road at the intersections of George Bush Drive and Harvey Mitchell Parkway.

Garland has had red light cameras since 2001 and has reported a 27 percent decrease in violations since the devices were installed, according to information presented to the College Station council last year. In 2006, College Station police issued more than 100 citations each at Texas and Walton and at Texas and George Bush for red light violations.

Cheryl Turney, College Station's purchasing manager, said the City Council is tentatively scheduled to discuss red light cameras later this month.

"Our next presentation will be to update them on these legislative matters and, if they are still interested in proceeding forward, we will ask them to appoint a citizen advisory committee," she said.

Other related bills recently passed by the Texas Legislature also affect College Station's plans but don't necessarily impact the timeline, Turney said.

One bill requires municipalities with red light cameras to install signs at least 100 feet from the intersection indicating the presence of the camera and explaining that violations result in a monetary penalty.

Another bill says intersection cameras may not be used to enforce compliance with posted speed limits.

"We did explore that as something we might use to monitor speeding in school zones," but that's no longer an option based on the legislation, Turney said.

The contract under negotiation with American Traffic Solutions is "cost neutral," Turney added.

"It would not cost the city anything to implement this program, and the Legislature has restricted what we can use any potential revenue for," she said, explaining that funds generated have to go toward things like traffic safety programs or intersection improvements.

Those who run red lights at the monitored intersections would receive a $75 civil citation from the vendor. Although citations would be issued by and paid to the vendor, the city would receive compensation for providing administrative hearings through its municipal court. Turney said she's not sure how much revenue the program will generate annually.

"We haven't finalized the contract," she said.

College Station Police Chief Michael Clancey, who asked the council in November to implement the red light program, was out of his office Monday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

Officials in Bryan say they still are talking about red light cameras but are not yet negotiating with a vendor.

"Our plan at this point is to wait and see what legislation is signed by Governor Perry, convene our city committee to determine the direction we think we should go and then potentially make another presentation to [the] council and seek its direction," said Freddie Komar, Bryan's assistant police chief.

• April Avison's e-mail address is april.avison@theeagle.com.

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