Government

No new tickets from Interstate 380 speed cameras yet

Despite court win, Cedar Rapids will do 'deliberate' study

Cars and trucks travel Thursday through the S-curve on Interstate 380, looking south from downtown Cedar Rapids. Despite winning a court victory to continue its traffic camera program, the city will conduct a study of the program and notify the public before any cameras again begin issuing speeding tickets. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cars and trucks travel Thursday through the S-curve on Interstate 380, looking south from downtown Cedar Rapids. Despite winning a court victory to continue its traffic camera program, the city will conduct a study of the program and notify the public before any cameras again begin issuing speeding tickets. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Interstate 380 automated traffic cameras will remain on ice for at least a while longer as city staff conduct a “planned and deliberate” analysis of the camera program, Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said this week.

“We are not in a position of just flipping a switch,” he told the city’s finance committee Wednesday. “We want to do it in the right way for the right reasons.”

The City Council will discuss the matter in a public setting at some point in the future, and the city will inform the public before resuming issuing citations, according to city officials.

Cedar Rapids seemingly scored a big win on April 27 when the Iowa Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision and cleared the way for Cedar Rapids to restart its camera program. The lower court still must issue a new ruling reflecting the Iowa Supreme Court opinion.

The interstate cameras were installed about eight years ago at both ends of the S-curve over the river where the speed limit decreases.

Cedar Rapids largely has been quiet on the matter since the court victory, showing little rush to reactivate them.

Cameras on I-380 and the westbound facing camera at the intersection of 10th Street and First Avenue E stopped issuing tickets after the lower court’s ruling in April 2017. But the cameras have remained on for data collection.

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Cedar Rapids supported a bill by state Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Marion, to regulate the cameras — in contrast with other bills calling to ban them. The Iowa Legislature adjourned without resolving the issue.

Now Cedar Rapids would like to work with other traffic camera cities to “put policies in place for self-regulation,” Pomeranz said.

“We need to analyze the pluses and minuses of turning the cameras back on, and talk to some of the other cities as well,” he said. “Then we will make a recommendation through this committee and then to the City Council.”

That could take some time, he added.

Council members present at the meeting welcomed the idea of a review, especially since the majority of the nine-member panel just took office in January.

Members Ann Poe and Scott Overland wondered if bigger and more noticeable signs than what’s in place now could be installed to more clearly indicate the enforcement zones.

“If we go back to this again, I think we have to make it a heck of lot more — I think it was clear anyway for people like me — but I think it needs to be a lot clearer. Look, you are going into this area here, and so the folks that do speed and get the tickets, well, you were warned,” Overland said.

Poe said she would like to see data on speeds and crashes since the cameras have not been issuing tickets. Council member Scott Olson called for “one more shot at an amnesty period” to clear the decks of people with old citations.

Olson said it makes sense to wait on making a decision on the cameras, especially with an unclear intent of the Legislature and with the Iowa Supreme Court yet to rule on other traffic camera cases questioning the constitutionality of the camera programs.

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“Before we crank things back up, they would like to have direction,” Olson said. “We don’t have any revenue in the budget (from the cameras), so we have time to work on this. We don’t want to turn them on and then in January or February have the state change its mind.”

The cameras had been generating about $3 million a year for the city, but that money has been factored out of city budget planning.

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

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