NEWS

Cedar Rapids agrees to merge traffic camera lawsuits with Des Moines, Muscatine

DOT requested that the three court cases be consolidated

A speed camera on a road sign north of the H Avenue NE interchange on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010, in northeast Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A speed camera on a road sign north of the H Avenue NE interchange on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010, in northeast Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Iowa Department of Transportation has asked the Iowa court system to consolidate similar lawsuits now filed by Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Muscatine over traffic enforcement cameras into one case to be contested in Polk County.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett on Thursday said the city isn’t resisting the request. Consolidation should move the case ahead more quickly, he said.

In June, Corbett along with the City Council voted unanimously to contest a DOT order calling for the city to modify its network of traffic enforcement cameras at the S-curve on Interstate 380 through downtown. The DOT told the city to remove cameras from two spots and to remove and move cameras at two other spots so they are positioned in the S-curve.

In its lawsuit, the city of Cedar Rapids is asking the Iowa District Court to review the DOT decision and to reverse it in its entirety. The city also is asking that the DOT pay the city’s costs and award the city “other equitable and legal relief” as the court deems appropriate.

The city’s lawsuit lists nine ways the DOT’s camera order is contrary to state law.

Among them: The DOT’s camera rules on which its decision is based did follow the procedural requirements set out in state law. The rules exceed the scope of the department’s authority. Both the rules and decision violate the Municipal Home Rule section of the Iowa Constitution and the home rule authority spelled out in state law.

In addition, the city argues that the DOT’s application of its rules is “wholly unjustifiable and so illogical as to be irrational,” lacks “any foundation in rational agency policy” and is “so factually and analytically flawed as to be unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.”

Cedar Rapids installed its network of enforcement cameras, which also now includes cameras at three city intersections, in 2010.

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In 2014, the DOT adopted new rules related to enforcement cameras, requiring cities to submit to a DOT evaluation. In March 2015, the DOT ordered Cedar Rapids to modify its camera network. In April, the city appealed to the DOT, which denied the appeal in May. The city went to court in June rather than comply.

The city said it will continue to issue tickets from the enforcement cameras until the court makes its decision.

Even so, City Manager Jeff Pomeranz has alerted the City Council that he was putting a freeze on new spending in the city’s new budget until he can work up a financial plan in the event the city loses the lawsuit.

The city said it will lose $2.2 million of the $3 million in annual net revenue from its camera network if it is forced to comply with the DOT order.

The city said the cameras have reduced crashes and eliminated fatal crashes on the S-curve on Interstate 380. The DOT said its work to add safety figures has helped contribute to any improved safety.

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