Government

Interstate 380 traffic cameras may remain off for at least 3 weeks

Traffic moves though the I-380 S-curve in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Traffic moves though the I-380 S-curve in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Despite an Iowa Supreme Court ruling on Friday paving the way for the return of traffic cameras on Interstate 380 — along with roadways in Des Moines and Muscatine — it could be at least three weeks, maybe more, before the ticketing programs can be restarted, officials said.

The high court reversed a lower court decision, opining that the Iowa Department of Transportation lacks authority to promulgate rules regulating traffic cameras, and thus a March 2015 order to turn off or move several cameras is invalid.

A few things have to happen before the cameras can be activated, though.

“I would think weeks rather than months, but there could be a complication I am not aware of,” Jerry Anderson, dean of the Drake University Law School, said of when the cameras could be back on.

Cedar Rapids officials said on Monday no decisions have been made about starting to issue tickets again.

According to judicial rules, Friday’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling is not official for 21 days after being issued.

The procedendo — or the process of remanding the case from the Supreme Court to the lower court — can’t occur for 21 days unless the court reduces or expands that window. This time frame allows for a rehearing request, which must be made within 14 days, and additional filings.

The Iowa DOT has said it is not planning to seek a rehearing.

The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Polk County District Court to issue a new ruling based on the opinion the Iowa DOT lacks authority over the cameras. Other arguments in the case, such as the legality of an 1,000-foot rule between traffic cameras and speed limit changes, weren’t considered because they were based on the Iowa DOT having authority over the cameras.

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A Polk County judge had ruled Iowa Code granted wide latitude to the Iowa DOT to govern the states primary highways and interstates as the agency saw fit. But the Supreme Court said there had to be limits to the Iowa DOT’s authority, and because traffic cameras are not specifically mentioned in Iowa Code and because they aren’t considered an “obstruction,” the DOT doesn’t have a say.

Anderson said it’s not certain how long the process will take in Polk County District Court. It may be clear cut, with a quick ruling and assignment of legal costs, or the judge may issue additional instructions having to do with turning the cameras back on.

Andrea Henry, a spokesperson for the Iowa DOT, confirmed on Monday that because the court struck down the DOT’s administrative rules governing traffic cameras, the state no longer has any rules regulating the cameras, unless an entity wished to place one on a DOT-owned bridge.

“They can turn them on today, but as a matter of legality they may want to wait until that rehearing period has passed,” Henry said.

Four speed camera locations on I-380 — northbound at Diagonal Drive, north and southbound at J Avenue, and southbound at First Avenue — and the westbound speed detection at First Avenue and 10th Street NE have not been issuing tickets since the a Polk County judge ruled against the cities on April 25, 2017.

Cameras at Williams Boulevard and 16th Avenue SW and First Avenue and L Street SW remain active.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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