NEWS

Cedar Rapids outline possible solutions to non-compliant traffic cameras

A third camera may be out of compliance

Traffic moves north on Interstate 380 between the sign where the speed limit drops to 55 MPH and the speed cameras near Diagonal Drive in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, August 27, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Traffic moves north on Interstate 380 between the sign where the speed limit drops to 55 MPH and the speed cameras near Diagonal Drive in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, August 27, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids officials have outlined possible solutions to address automated traffic cameras that don’t comply with state rules.

The solutions include moving speed limit signs, adding “reduce speed ahead” signs, or waiving the rule. The proposal was submitted to the Iowa Department of Transportation on Monday, after being requested during a conference call between the two organizations on Friday.

“Because of the unique circumstances of these particular camera locations, an administrative waiver for Cedar Rapids is warranted and would not affect applicability of the distance guidelines in other situations,” stated the proposal released to news media on Tuesday.

Included in the proposal is a response to a third camera that is within 1,000 feet of a speed limit change, which hadn’t previously been identified.

The proposal notes that the cameras locations were jointly selected with the DOT to maximize safety benefits and to avoid constructing new trusses to mount them.

In all cases, the city plans to continue operating the cameras. A separate statement from the city stated the DOT has never asked Cedar Rapids to stop operating the cameras, and the DOT has not taken a position on the validity of tickets.

All tickets issued are valid and subject to a collection agency if violators fail to pay, according to the statement.

The DOT notified Cedar Rapids in August that two cameras on Interstate 380 — J Avenue southbound and Diagonal Drive northbound — are within 1,000 feet of where the speed limit changes from 60 to 55 miles per hour, which is out of compliance with new rules enacted on Feb. 12 and don’t give motorists enough time to slow down.

Motorists have responded with a mixed reaction with some saying the cameras have improved safety and speeders deserve the penalty, while others say the camera placements are deceptive and the city should follow the state’s rules.

A class-action lawsuit over the cameras has been filed against Cedar Rapids and its camera vendor Gatso USA.

Steve Gent, the Iowa DOT director of traffic and safety, said the agency has not fully reviewed the proposal and didn’t have an immediate response. He said the DOT will decide if they will address the specific camera location issues on its own, or if this matter will be addressed as part of a broader review of Cedar Rapids’ camera program by the end of the year.

Cedar Rapids proposal of solutions also offers the possibility of relocating the cameras but notes it’s less appropriate because of significantly greater cost and a lack of ideal locations.

The proposal also challenges how effective moving the cameras would be, saying “it doesn’t seem” motorists would slow down to the speed limit if given additional runway.

The third camera — at First Avenue East and 10th Street Southeast — monitors red light violations. Speed is also monitored to guard against people who speed up to “beat the red light,” according to Cedar Rapids proposal.

The city argues “the guideline should not be applied in the same manner as it has been applied to highways.”