CEDAR RAPIDS — Nearly 90 percent of the tickets issued in a year by the city's network of traffic enforcement cameras comes from cameras set up on Interstate 380 at J Avenue NE.
The Iowa Department of Transportation on Tuesday ordered the city to remove the cameras in northbound lanes at that spot, saying they were unnecessary because they were beyond the Interstate's crash-prone S-curve through downtown Cedar Rapids.
At the same time, the DOT told the city to move the cameras in the southbound lanes to the next sign truss over the Interstate at G Avenue NE. This will put the cameras in compliance with a DOT rule that requires cameras to be farther than 1,000 feet from a change in a speed limit zone.
Traffic cameras in Iowa DOT report
According to city figures for 2013, the cameras in northbound lanes at J Avenue NE generated $2.7 million in tickets or about 40 percent of the total of $6.8 million in tickets.
The city shares some of the revenue with the camera vendor and does not collect all the fines.
In the budget year beginning July 1, the city estimates that the camera network will deliver $4.7 million in revenue, with about $3 million in net revenue for the city, Casey Drew, the city's finance director, said last week.
The loss of the northbound cameras on Interstate 380 at J Avenue NE, which generate 40 percent of the tickets, could cost the city $1.2 million in net revenue a year.
The cameras in the southbound lanes of Interstate 380 at J Avenue NE generated about 48 percent of the network's tickets, and it is unclear how the revenue from these cameras will change once the cameras are moved about a half mile closer to the crash-prone S-curve.
“They attempted to play King Solomon and split the baby,” Mayor Ron Corbett said in his quick analysis of the DOT report.
The city's traffic camera network consists of 29 cameras at four locations on Interstate 380 and at three city intersections.
The DOT said southbound cameras on Interstate 380 at First Avenue SW must come down because traffic has made it through the worst part of the S-curve by then.
The cameras northbound on Interstate 380 at Diagonal Drive SW must move north to First Avenue SW.
The cameras at three intersections, which monitor for speeding and red-light violations, can stay in place. However, the cameras at First Avenue East and 10th Street can only be used for red-light violations. The camera for westbound traffic there is too close to the change in speed limit zone.
Steve Gent, the DOT's director of traffic and safety, on Tuesday said the DOT's camera report addressed 34 camera locations, the seven in Cedar Rapids, and cameras in Des Moines, Davenport, Sioux City, Muscatine and Council Bluffs. Nine of the 34 must be removed, 24 can stay and one has been taken down on Interstate 29 in Sioux City due to highway reconstruction and won't be put back.
Des Moines had one camera and Sioux City two on the Interstate system, and all three must be taken down, Gent said.
Gent said the DOT agrees with Cedar Rapids and believes that the S-curve on Interstate 380 through downtown is sufficiently prone to crashes that it makes sense to have speed cameras there to improve safety.
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As a result, Gent said the DOT is continuing to support cameras at two of four Cedar Rapids spots on the Interstate where northbound and southbound traffic enter the S-curve. Both remaining camera locations are being moved closer to the curve to be in compliance with DOT distance rules and to be in a spot where motorists confront more congestion and more on-and-off ramps, he said.
At the same time, Gent said the DOT is removing cameras from two spots near the S-curve as motorists have left the curve and are making their way north or south.