October 1, 2014

Any action on first traffic camera reports won’t come until next month

A traffic camera in Des Moines.

A traffic camera in Des Moines.

It will be at least one month before the Department of Transportation makes any decision on the first traffic camera reports.  New rules required cities with speed or red-light cameras along state roadways to submit a report by May 1st to show how the cameras are being used to improve traffic safety.

The director of the DOT’s office of traffic and safety, Steve Gent, told the Transportation Commission  10 cities or counties have the cameras and six — Davenport, Muscatine, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Council Bluffs and Sioux City — filed reports.

Clive did not file a report as the city has decided to shut down its cameras in June.  Windsor Heights and Fort Dodge also did not file reports. Gent says those two cities have decided to only place their speed cameras on local roadways, which are not covered by DOT rules. Polk County also did not submit a report and Gent says he has been unable to find out why county officials have not responded.

Gent says the reports vary greatly in length, beginning with the six-page Sioux City report. “We’ve put all of these reports on the DOT website so that anybody can view them — try to keep it a very open and transparent process,” Gent says. “You’d probably would be interested that four of the six reports are seven pages or less. So, some of them are very small. Council Bluff’s report is 19 pages, and Cedar Rapids is 47 pages.”

Gent says he will go through the reports with state traffic engineer Tim Crouch, and that will take about a month. “We’ve really just gotten started with these, we got them about a week and a half ago,” Gent says. He says they have a few things they will be looking for in each report. “The first thing we will do is try to determine what data is not in the report that will still need to help us make a decision. And so, we will work with the cities on those and get all the information,” Gent says. “And really we are going to be working on two key things, the first key thing is: are these systems making the roadways safer?. And the other part is: are these systems in compliance with the establish rules?”

Gent says the purpose of the rules is to ensure the cameras are making the roadways safer. “Safety is pretty much all about crashes. And we realize there is a lot of variability in crashes from year-to-year, there can be. And we really are going to be looking at a more of a trend of what the crashes are,” Gent says. “As far as the compliance with the rules — there are certain things like quarterly calibration requirements. Making sure the systems that are in place aren’t creating other hazards or concerns. Making sure the signage is in place and stuff like that.”

Gent says they will work collaboratively with cities throughout the review, and then they will sit down with the DOT director and make a decision on any action.