ARTICLE

Cedar Rapids going to court to keep traffic cameras

Council decision comes in closed-door session

Radar-enabled speed cameras are attached to a sign post as traffic moves along northbound Interstate 380 near the Diagonal Dr. SW exit on Friday, May 21, 2010, in Cedar Rapids. The cameras will record speeders and issue a ticket for the infraction. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Radar-enabled speed cameras are attached to a sign post as traffic moves along northbound Interstate 380 near the Diagonal Dr. SW exit on Friday, May 21, 2010, in Cedar Rapids. The cameras will record speeders and issue a ticket for the infraction. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The city will sue the Iowa Department of Transportation to keep the city’s network of traffic enforcement cameras in place.

The City Council decision came Tuesday afternoon in a 80-minute closed session, which state law permits when elected officials are discussing litigation or possible litigation.

After the session, the council emerged, reconvened and voted unanimously to seek a court resolution to the camera dispute with the DOT.

Mayor Ron Corbett said Police Chief Wayne Jerman and the city’s legal staff helped convince the council to fight in court to keep the cameras where they are. The legal staff said it thought the city could make a strong legal case.

After the council decision and vote, Jerman said the city’s crash data has made the case and continues to make the case that enforcement cameras make for fewer crashes and fewer injuries.

Corbett said one compelling piece of evidence is that there has not been any deaths on the crash prone S-curve on Interstate 380 since cameras have gone up in two locations northbound and two locations southbound at the curve.

Last week, Corbett said he favored complying with the DOT order of a month ago, which called for the city to turn off cameras at two locations at the S-curve on Interstate 380 and to move the cameras in two other spots to new locations in the S-curve.

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The city has faced a deadline, which ends Thursday, to comply with the DOT order or to go to court over the camera dispute.

The city has had cameras in place since early 2010, but last year, the DOT began requiring Iowa cities with cameras to submit crash-data reports to make the case to keep cameras in place.

In March, the DOT ordered some cameras to come down, not only in Cedar Rapids, but in Sioux City, Des Moines, Davenport, Muscatine and Council Bluffs.

Cedar Rapids was permitted to keep cameras at three intersections in addition to being allowed to keep cameras at two locations on Interstate 380 if the camera locations there change.

The DOT has said that Cedar Rapids would be the only city in the nation to have permanent enforcement cameras on an Interstate highway even with the DOT’s latest camera order.

Des Moines and Sioux City also have had cameras on the Interstate, and Sioux City is fighting the DOT in court and Des Moines has said it will as well to keep them in place.

Cedar Rapids city officials have estimated that they will lose $2.2 million of the $3 million in net revenue from its enforcement cameras if it complies with the DOT order.

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