Government

Cedar Rapids automated traffic cameras begin issuing tickets Monday

Cameras issued only warnings to speeders and red-light runners in June

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 automated traffic camera honeymoon is over and ticketing to enforce speeding and red-light violations captured by the devices are scheduled to resume Monday morning after the turn of midnight.

The camera program was reinstated after years of litigation on June 1 with a 30-day grace period during which only warnings were issued.

As of Friday afternoon, 13,596 warnings had been issued, of which 90 were for red-light violations and the rest for speeding, according to Cedar Rapids police data.

“If you don’t want to pay the civil penalty then don’t speed,” said police Lt. Charlie Fields.

The speed limit in the photo-enforced S-curve portion of Interstate 380 is 55 mph.

The warning initiative came at no cost to the city, and was absorbed by camera vendor Sensys Gatso USA, of Beverly, Mass., Fields said. The warnings equate to about 494 a day, which would put motorists on pace to generate about 180,000 tickets over the course of a year. That would be more than the 154,323 tickets issued during the last full year traffic cameras were operational in Cedar Rapids, at four locations on I-380 and five in town.

Fields said he was not surprised by the number of warnings. His impression was that people already had started slowing down.

“I noticed a week after warnings began, more people have been slowing down on the interstate,” Fields said. “I feel personally it has changed driver behavior.”

Fines start at $75 for speeding 11-20 mph over the speed limit and $100 for red-light violations.

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The fine scale increases for more extreme speeding up to $100 for 21-25 mph over, $250 for 25-30 mph over and $500 for more than 30 mph over — and more if the violation is in a construction zone.

Cedar Rapids forecasts $4.7 million in revenue in the first year of operation. This would equate to about 63,000 citations paid. But the city has struggled to collect fines, with about 45 percent of violations in the last full year of operation going unpaid.

Of the proceeds, $1.7 million is earmarked to pay Gatso, with the remainder going to city coffers. The money is intended to hire 10 officers and an administrator to help process the tickets.

Police provided some data from the first months’s grace period:

— The highest recorded speed was 94 mph, and it occurred on I-380.

— The farthest warnings were sent to vehicle owners with registrations in Alaska, Washington state and Maryland.

Here is other information you need to know:

— Traffic cameras are placed at nine locations, plus one mobile radar. Four speed cameras are on I-380: where it crosses at J Avenue NE and Diagonal Drive SW in the northbound lanes, and at J Avenue NE and First Avenue SW in the southbound lanes. Five cameras enforcing speed and red-light violations are located in town: First Avenue and 10th Street NE, First Avenue and L Street SW, Williams Boulevard and 16th Avenue SW, 42nd Street and Edgewood Road NE and the intersection of Center Point Road and the Collins Road ramp (north side of Highway 100).

The mobile radar vehicle is for traffic projects throughout the city and typically deployed based on citizen concerns.

— Tickets can be contested.

A recipient has 30 days of the notification to either pay the ticket, file a written challenge or request a municipal infraction be filed, which starts court proceedings.

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If a judge determines the recipient is liable, the city could seek voluntary payment; could submit the debt to the state’s income offset program, which settles the debt through a violator’s income tax refund; and could seek the assistance of a collection agency.

Additionally, if tickets are ignored, the city can initiate a municipal infraction process to determine liability.

— Motorists would pay additional fees if court proceedings are invoked.

The filing fee is $85. There may be additional costs incurred for having the petition served to other parties, likely $25 to $35, or more if the person is farther away.

• Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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