The head of the Iowa Department of Transportation says the department will soon begin the formal process of creating rules for the use of automated traffic cameras.
DOT director, Paul Trombino, says they will develop and implement rules like they do for other traffic systems.
“The plan is to basically…use a lot of the information that we have gathered over this last year and a half in addition to our guidelines and some of the discussions that we have had. But basically implement rules to govern the placement of what we call automated traffic enforcement — which is both speed cameras and red light cameras and fixed and mobile — on the primary highway system. And that includes municipal extensions of that system and of course the interstate system,”Trombino says.
He says the DOT rules would create a set process for determining when and where the traffic cameras should be used. “Looking at a safety issue that’s maybe arisen or arising on the system, and then identifying the mixture of tools, maybe this ATE — Automate Traffic Enforcement — is one of the tools,” Trombino says.
“But having a clear process that local governments and municipalities can understand, as much as the public clearly understands I think only aids with addressing of any sort of safety issue.” Several cities have already installed traffic cameras, including Sioux City, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, which have speed cameras on the interstate. The Des Moines suburb of Windsor Heights is suing the state in an effort to place a speed camera on the interstate.
The traffic camera debate has centered on whether they are being installed to raise money or for safety. Trombino says setting up rules can help clear up any concerns.
“Having good process, good standard traffic engineering safety analysis only aids and hopefully removes away some of those clouds on the funding side, revenue side that come up. If…one of the tools happens to be some sort of automated traffic enforcement,” according to Trombino.
“But also goes with the understanding that it’s not static, it has to be regularly review, are we seeing any improvement?” He says if they find the safety isn’t improving with the cameras, then like any other process, they would look at other ways to address the safety issue.
Des Moines leaders recently issued information they say shows a reduction in accidents at intersections where they use red light cameras. Trombino says they will look at a lot of information, and will not focus on any particular city.
“We’ve had a number of conversations with communities and others across the state. There’s been a lot of conversations with the legislature. And so I think as a result of that, pulling all those pieces together, I feel very confident the rules process will outline a very fair and equitable process of analysis — which we think has to come first,” Trombino says.
Efforts to ban or limit the use of the traffic cameras have thus far failed in the state legislature. Trombino expects to have the rules for traffic cameras ready to implement by the end of the year.