- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2001

The National Park Service will not remove two radar cameras along the George Washington Memorial Parkway despite House Majority Leader Dick Armeys complaints that cameras intrude on motorists privacy.
Instead, the superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway said yesterday she wants to finish testing the equipment, which could take months, before making any decisions. One camera is near the CIA headquarters in McLean, while the other is near Gravelly Point, just north of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
"We would prefer Mr. Armey didnt ask us to [take down the cameras] until were done with our test pilot program," Superintendent Audrey Calhoun said in a telephone interview yesterday. "We would at least like to go through the process until anything is decided."
The program has already received funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), so going forward with the testing would not incur additional costs.
In 1998, the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee — then chaired by U.S. Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican — directed the Park Service and NHTSA to conduct the pilot program to deter aggressive driving along the parkway.
Mr. Armey, Texas Republican, sent a letter yesterday to the Interior Department expressing his concerns over the use of radar cameras to enforce the speed limits on federal roads.
In the two-page letter to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, Mr. Armey called the practice a "spy-camera program" and "a step toward a Big Brother surveillance state."
The letter also said the Park Service was planning to install more cameras on federal grounds and use them without first seeking congressional approval.
Miss Calhoun disputed that yesterday, saying if the Park Service were to add more cameras or decide to keep the cameras after completing testing, the agency would submit its operating guidelines to Congress. Federal agencies generally have the authority to propose and enforce rules under their jurisdiction.
Telephone calls to Interior Department officials were not returned yesterday.
Miss Calhoun said the cameras dont invade a motorists privacy because they only take photographs of a cars license-plate number and its make and model, but not the driver. She also said Park Police would send an affidavit along with the speeding ticket, that motorists can sign if they believe they were not the driver of the car when it was caught speeding.
"Were not out to get anyone," Miss Calhoun said. "We just want to create a safe environment for everyone who uses the parkway."
Test studies have shown the parkway has had problems with speeding, Miss Calhoun said.
Of the 24,000 commuters who drove on the parkway near Reagan National Airport between August 1999 and February 2000, about 12,000 were caught driving 10 mph above the 40-mph speed limit, Miss Calhoun said. About 1 percent was caught traveling 24 mph above the limit, she said.
Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, supported the Park Services efforts. "Weve had way too many deaths" that have mostly been caused by speeding and aggressive driving, he said.
If the problem declines, the Park Service can drop its enforcement effort, Mr. Moran said. "I think Dick is being a little silly on this," he said.
Mr. Armey, however, is not alone in his opposition to radar cameras.
The Fraternal Order of Polices U.S. Park Police Labor Committee, which represents some 390 officers who patrol the parkway, said it would rather see the government hire more officers, some of whom could patrol the parkway and monitor speeding.
"Obviously people shouldnt speed, but we think its better for officers to deter people from speeding than machines," said Peter Ward, the committees chairman.
* John Godfrey contributed to this article.


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