*This storyline was voted as one of the top storylines of 2017 by Gazette staff. Other top storylines include the sale of Rockwell Collins, proposals for a new Cedar Rapids casino, and the state’s opioid abuse issue.
CEDAR RAPIDS — A legal battle over the future of Cedar Rapids’ automated traffic cameras waged on in 2017, with the city experiencing several setbacks.
The Iowa Department of Transportation ordered that three systems involving automated traffic cameras around the state be shut off and three more be moved or modified. After losing an appeal to the Iowa DOT, the cities of Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Muscatine sued in June 2015 to keep the cameras on.
In April, District Court Judge Scott E. Rosenberg ruled on basic arguments in the case: whether the Iowa DOT’s traffic camera rules were properly established; if they were logical; if they overstepped the will of the Iowa Legislature; and whether it was the state or the cities that have authority over camera use. In each instance, Rosenberg sided with the state.
“Based on state law providing the IDOT with the authority to regulate safety on primary highways, the Iowa Legislature has provided the IDOT with the authority to regulate ATEs (automated traffic enforcement devices),” Rosenberg wrote in the ruling.
The cities have appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court and are awaiting a ruling.
In a separate ruling, the state Supreme Court ruled in June that the three cities could not continue issuing traffic tickets during the appeal. Cedar Rapids had stopped issuing tickets on April 25. Since then, Cedar Rapids officials said they’ve seen an increase in speeding through the downtown S-curve on Interstate 380.
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The legal setbacks have not stopped the city from trying to collect fines on previously issued tickets. Just before Christmas, the city sent out 221,000 notices warning people that if they don’t pay, they will face a penalty and be turned over to a state debt collection program.