Iowa Department of Transportation traffic safety director Steve Gent hopes to be able to wrap up the first review of the use of traffic cameras on state roadways by the end of this month. The new rules created by the DOT in February require the six Iowa cities using the devices to file a safety report.
Gent says they then asked for some additional information and recently got that back from all of the cities. “We’re currently looking at all that data. We’d kind of like to work with all the cities at the same time, kind of get to the same point. We’re looking at sitting down and talking with the cities and letting them know what we’re seeing and see if we can’t work something out together,” Gent says.
The process of reviewing the use of the cameras in Davenport, Muscatine, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Sioux City and Council Bluffs has taken several months. “This is the first time that we’ve been through this process — the first year that the rules have been in place — and so we want to do this right the first time. We want to work with the cities, that’s really what this is about,” according to Gent.
The cameras have spurred the debate over whether they are used to make money or to increase safety. Gent says the DOT rules are designed to ensure the cameras are used as a safety tool. “The speed cameras on the interstate are the ones where we really don’t have much research from a national perspective, because Iowa is the only state in the nation that has these permanent locations on the interstate,” Gent says. “And so we just don’t have that kind of history or rich data to tell us — or tell anybody how effective they are.”
Gent says they want to be able to use the cameras in the best way to help everyone. “Hopefully by the end of the year we have this all resolved, that’s our plan. We’d like to start that conversation in the later half of November with the cities, based on the review that we’ve conducted,” Gent says.
Three other cities took the matter into their own hands instead of following through with the new state rules. The Des Moines suburb of Clive shut down its cameras in June. Windsor Heights and Fort Dodge decided to only place their speed cameras on local roadways, so they would not be covered by DOT rules.