- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Two things that can be said to the news in Friday's editions of The Washington Times that the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department intends to set up photo-radar cameras to catch speeding motorists on New York Avenue: Good luck to them. And, you've got to be kidding.
As anyone unfortunate enough to travel on this wretched stretch of road on a daily basis will know, in order to exceed the speed limit on New York Avenue, you need wings or some other airborne method of transportation. For mere mortals stuck on their four wheels in traffic jam after traffic jam, exceeding the speed limit is an impossible dream. Indeed, most commuters who use this "gateway to the District" are grateful just to be creeping along at 5 to 10 mph.
The major obstacle at the moment is the seemingly endless bridge construction near South Dakota Avenue. Here, inbound traffic from Route 50, Route 295 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway narrow to just one lane. Sometimes it feels like a camel would have an easier time getting through the proverbial needle's eye than a motorist from one end of the bridge to the other.
At other times in recent years, it has been New York Avenue out-bound, which presented the problem what with power cables and fiberoptic connections being put down, potholes being filled in and resurfacing crews on the march. Whatever the raison du jour, outbound traffic has often looked a lot more like a parking lot than a speed trap.
In fact, the frustrations of motorists on New York Avenue have contributed more than anything else to the instances of red-light running at the two intersections that have now been equipped with cameras to stop this practice. At both the turn off on Bladensburg Road and at the tunnel on I-395 so few cars are able to pass through the green light (about three under optimal conditions) that motorists trying to get somewhere before old-age is upon them grab the chance to move into the blink-of-an-eye-brief yellow light and end up getting photo-ticketed for running red.
The ridiculous unfairness of collecting fines from people struggling to commute without getting their fenders bent is one thing. Another, which has often been remarked upon in this space, is the police-state mentality involved, and the outrage of handing the task of harassing citizens to a private for-profit organization, Lockheed Martin. Commuting is hard enough in this city as it is. Adding Big Brother surveillance to the daily ordeal is to add insult to injury.


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