Plan would cut some speed cams, place new ones in school zones

2013-12-20T00:00:00Z 2013-12-20T15:02:05Z Plan would cut some speed cams, place new ones in school zonesBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The company that operates speed-enforcement cameras on Pima County roads is proposing changes it hopes will save its contract — including new cameras in school zones and portable cameras similar to those used by the city of Tucson.

Tempe-based American Traffic Solutions is proposing to take down seven of its 11 existing speed cameras. The four other cameras would remain in place.

As part of its proposal, the company wants to install five new cameras in school zones as well as use portable cameras that would be rotated among several school zones.

ATS also wants to use vehicles equipped with cameras it could temporarily deploy along stretches of county roads popular with speeding drivers.

Meanwhile, the contract between the county and Tempe-based ATS is set to expire Dec. 31. That means without action by the Pima County Board of Supervisors all 11 cameras could go dark on New Year’s Day.

Priscilla Cornelio, director of the Pima County Department of Transportation, said her staff is expected to meet with the company soon to discuss the cameras.

The new proposal being evaluated by the county transportation staff comes months after County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry recommended to supervisors they let the contract expire.

The unpopular cameras have largely served their purpose, forcing drivers in those areas to slow down, Huckelberry said earlier this year.

The cameras also never led to the large injection of revenue into the county’s general fund the company had promised.

While the fines for speeding citations run into the hundreds of dollars, depending on how fast a driver is going, by the time state surcharges are deducted and the company providing the cameras takes its cut, the amount the county gets is minimal.

The county gets about $47 per $240 ticket issued by the photo-enforcement system.

ATS, which takes a cut of every speeding ticket the camera issues, would largely cover the cost of installing the new cameras.

The five-year contract has generated more than 100,000 tickets, but the number peaked in 2010 as drivers learned to slow down near the stationary cameras.

“The number of citations have dropped dramatically” since the cameras were installed, Huckelberry said earlier this year.

A four-page proposal by ATS touts how a similar deployment in Mesa has made school zones safer.

“Speeding is a major concern in school zones both during and after school-zone hours specifically near or at school crossings. With minimal effort and resource, this proposal will help Pima County improve its focus on school zone safety,” wrote ATS vice president Mark Priebe .

Priebe said any reduction in traffic accidents is financially beneficial to the county.

The proposal by ATS largely mirrors some recommendations made by Pima County sheriff’s Bureau Chief Brad Gagnepain a few months ago.

His memo outlined the effectiveness of the current county contract and made recommendations if the contract was to be renewed, including dismantling some cameras and putting mobile units near school zones.

However, Gagnepain noted in the same memo that photo enforcement has generated the ire of many residents, leading to its elimination on a statewide level by the Arizona Department of Public Safety as well as in Pinal County.

The company’s proposal will be a tough sell for Supervisor Sharon Bronson.

Bronson said she relies on the advice of the She0riff’s Department, which has told her the current system of fixed cameras is not effective in terms of keeping the public safe.

Supervisor Richard Elías said the company has its work cut out, noting it over-promised and under-delivered in its contract with the county.

The proposal is expected to go before the Board of Supervisors in early January, said Huckelberry.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson

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