City safety camera program starts in February: Pilot program pushed back a month, tickets will be isssued in March

The City of Redmond's Safety Camera Pilot Program is being delayed by one month and is now scheduled to go live Feb. 1, 2011.

Cars line up at the intersection of Northeast Union Hill Road and Avondale Road Northeast

Cars line up at the intersection of Northeast Union Hill Road and Avondale Road Northeast

The City of Redmond’s Safety Camera Pilot Program is being delayed by one month and is now scheduled to go live Feb. 1, 2011.

Police commander Shari Shovlin said they are pushing things back to continue public education throughout January and make sure the community is well informed about the program.

“We don’t want to surprise anyone,” she said.

Shovlin added that once the program does go live, there will still be the 30-day grace period with violators receiving warning tickets. Citations with fines won’t be issued until the beginning of March, she said. Tickets will be the standard $124, but will be categorized as a non-moving violation, so drivers’ insurance will not be affected.

“There should be no points against your driving record,” Shovlin said.

The pilot program consists of three red-light cameras and one school-zone camera. The intersection cameras are located eastbound at 148th Avenue Northeast and Redmond Way, eastbound and westbound at 156th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 40th Street and westbound and northbound at Union Hill Road and Avondale Road. Shovlin said these locations were chosen based on two separate studies that showed these intersections had the highest volume of red lights run in these directions.

The school-zone camera will be eastbound and westbound in front of Einstein Elementary School on Northeast 116th Street. Shovlin said they chose this location because it is where they receive the most complaints. The school already has yellow blinking lights that will indicate when the cameras are on before and after school from 8:30 to 9:15 a.m. and 3:30 to 4 p.m.

“The purpose and intent is to slow traffic down,” said Karen Bates, interim principal at Einstein. “People go way too fast. My hope is that (the cameras) will slow people down.”

Bates said before entering the 20-miles-per-hour school zone, the speed on Northeast 116th Street is 35 miles per hour. This can be very dangerous with more than 400 students arriving at or leaving school, especially in the winter months with shorter, darker days.

Before the cameras go live, a police officer has been working the street in front of the school and ticketing speeders. While the officer has been doing a great job, Bates said having an officer there probably is not the most efficient use of the police department’s resources.

Henry Yang agrees. Yang is a manager for First Impression Music, Inc., which is in the Avondale Gateway business plaza located on the corner of Union Hill Road and Avondale Road. He said having an officer patrolling the area pulls resources away from other locations. The cameras will hopefully have people thinking twice before they try to beat or run the red light at the busy intersection.

“You also have a lot of pedestrians,” he said.

Jim Jones of State Farm Insurance, which is located in the same plaza as First Impression, has a direct view of the intersection and witnesses violations on a regular basis.

“It’s amazing how many people blow their horns and run red lights,” he said.

Despite what he sees, Jones does not know if the cameras will affect people’s driving habits, which is the goal of the program. Additionally, Jones is not a fan of the cameras because they have a “Big Brother” feel of the government watching.

Both Yang and Bates counter this argument, saying as long as you follow the law, the cameras won’t affect you.

“It is my choice to break the law. If I’m caught, it’s my responsibility and the consequences of that is that I’m fined,” Bates said. “The city isn’t making me speed, but it’s their authority to give me a ticket.”

Clif Swinford is a leasing consultant for Archstone Redmond Campus Apartment Homes, which is right by the cameras at 156th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 40th Street. He said for those worried about privacy, the cameras are located in public areas along public thoroughfares. He added that anyone who expects complete privacy in this modern world is living in a fantasy. Swinford approves of the cameras and their purpose.

“I think it’s a perfectly valid use of that technology,” he said.

The City of Redmond is renting the cameras, so Shovlin said money generated from the program will first go to cover those expenses. Any left over money will go toward public safety and traffic programs such as repainting signs and adding or replacing traffic lights, which are some of the first expenses to be cut in the case of a budget shortfall.

Shovlin added that the pilot program will run for a year under close monitoring. Around October 2011, the city will decide whether to continue the program.

Information about the Safety Camera Pilot Program is available on the City of Redmond’s website at www.redmond.gov/PublicSafety/TrafficSafetyCameras.


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