Speed cameras in Cedar Rapids.

The chiefs of police in Iowa’s two largest cities are praising a “middle of the road” approach to traffic enforcement cameras. Yesterday, a bill that would ban traffic cameras cleared its first hurdle in the senate.

Today, another bill that would allow the cameras, but direct the traffic fines to road maintenance has emerged from a subcommittee.

Senator Dan Zumbach, a Republican from Ryan, is working on the legislation.

“I felt we needed to have an alternative to zero cameras because safety is real and I appreciate the folks who have concerns about liberty, but there’s also a lot of folks who need the liberty of being able to drive down the road without being hit,” Zumbach says. “And so this bill provides an avenue to have good discussion, to be able to come up with something that we feel is fair.”

Senator Dan Zumbach.

Zumbach, who is a farmer, has driven semi loads of grain through downtown Cedar Rapids on Interstate-380 for two decades and he appreciates the speed cameras that are placed there.

“Before those cameras, it was vividly dangerous,” Zumbach says. “When I talk about the hair standing up on my arms, it did.”

Speed cameras were installed in 2010 along the “S curve” of Interstate 380 through downtown Cedar Rapids. Wayne Jerman, the chief of police in Cedar Rapids, says that stretch of interstate “is not safe for traditional traffic enforcement.”

“It is not safe for officers to take enforcement action in making traditional traffic stops along on that roadway,” Jerman says. “It puts their danger and it also puts the lives of the motorists in danger who get stopped and also travel that stretch of roadway.”

Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert says the traffic cameras along Interstate 235 that cuts through Des Moines are placed because of design issues, too.

“There’s a slight curve in the roadway there. There’s a slight hill in the roadway there and the shoulders are not wide enough to pull a car over and be completely off the roadway,” Wingert says. “If those cameras were removed, there will not be enforcement in that area. It’s just not safe.”

One senator who supports traffic cameras suggests the pending legislation could require a warning, not a fine, the first time a vehicle is caught on camera running a red light or speeding.