Bill would require Iowa DOT approval for traffic cameras

Local authorities would also need justification report for new, existing cameras

Local authorities who want to operate traffic cameras would have to get approval from the state department of transportation under a bill that moved out of a House panel Thursday.

The legislation requires that speed and red-light cameras be placed in high-risk, high-traffic volume areas, but prohibits them from being placed on primary roads, which includes interstates, U.S. routes and Iowa routes.

The bill also requires local authorities to produce a justification report to the DOT for existing and any new cameras, including documentation of existing traffic speeds and volume, posted speed limits, location of signs, intersection geometry and accident history of the location, among other items.

“Anybody who has been in this battle before knows I don’t like cameras,” said bill sponsor Rep. Walt Rogers. “Since we can’t ban them, let’s at least make the regulations uniform.”

Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, has pushed for traffic bans or restrictions on the devices each session since being elected in 2010, but the bills have never made it to the governor’s desk.

The strongest kickback has come from county and municipal groups who say cameras are a decision best left to local authorities and not the state.

Windsor Heights Police Chief Dennis McDaniel said Thursday he has a “fundamental disagreement” with taking power out of the hands of local authorities to make decisions on camera placement, especially since federal and state routes are often key parts of a municipal grid.

“This is a politically charged discussion,” McDaniel said. “There should be dialogue any time you’re saying you’re going to have regulations.”

At least eight Iowa communities — Davenport, Muscatine, Sioux City, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Clive and Ankeny —– have traffic cameras.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 84 California communities have traffic cameras, which is the most of any state. They’re followed by Illinois with 75 communities and Florida with 69.

The bill moved out of subcommittee with the signatures of Rogers and Rep. Ron Jorgensen, R-Sioux City. Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, did not sign on to the legislation because she wanted more time to review the bill, which she wasn’t assigned to until Wednesday afternoon.

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