- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 13, 2004

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz yesterday introduced a bill that would limit the use of speed cameras to areas with heavy pedestrian traffic, effectively barring them from the highways, where they have raked in the most money.

“There are a lot of cameras in this city that are not about safety, they are about revenue,” said Mrs. Schwartz, at-large Republican.

“[T]oo many of these cameras are placed in areas without high volumes of pedestrian traffic, such as the Anacostia Freeway, the Third Street Tunnel and the 2800 block of New York Avenue [NE],” she said.

The Washington Times reported last month that 2800 block of New York Avenue NE in May was the cameras’ most lucrative site. The outbound roadway — a six-lane, divided highway between two service roads — accounted for 10,868 speed-camera citations, more than 17 percent of the tickets issued that month, according to Metropolitan Police statistics.

At the automated traffic-enforcement program’s minimum fine — $30 — the New York Avenue zone generated at least $326,040 in May.

Also in May, cameras on a stretch of the Anacostia Freeway south of Pennsylvania Avenue generated 7,045 citations, with fines totaling at least $211,350, and those at the freeway’s 8.2-mile marker generated 6,783 citations and fines totaling at least $203,490, according to police statistics.

The freeway, like outbound New York Avenue, has no pedestrian crosswalks and does not intersect other city streets.

However, three of the 10 most-dangerous intersections in the District are not monitored by traffic cameras, The Times reported in May.

The intersections — 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, First Street and New York Avenue NW, and North Capitol Street and New York Avenue NW — had 34 hit-and-run accidents and 40 injury-producing accidents in 2001, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the D.C. Department of Transportation (DOT).

Meanwhile, the District collected more than $2 million in speed-camera citations for the third consecutive month in May, bringing to more than $51 million the total revenue produced by the program since its inception in 2001.

“The [Metropolitan Police Department] steadfastly maintains the intent of the cameras is not to raise revenue, but to make our streets safer,” Mrs. Schwartz told her colleagues when she introduced her bill yesterday. “Well, I don’t buy it, and I hope you don’t continue to as well.”

None of other 12 council members joined the bill as a co-sponsor. Council members have 24 hours to become co-sponsors after a bill is introduced.

Under the bill, speed cameras would be restricted to “streets with a high level of pedestrians, residential streets and streets adjacent to schools, recreation centers and senior-citizen residential centers.” In addition, cameras would be barred from streets where pedestrian walkways are separated from the thoroughfare by a structural barrier, such as a fence or jersey wall.

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey was unavailable for comment yesterday. His spokesmen said the chief would reserve comment until after he has reviewed the proposed legislation.

Police officials have said the high-revenue zones are not being singled out for speed enforcement, and the six cruisers equipped with cameras rotate among about 20 zones each month.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who was attending the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Houston yesterday, also has insisted that the speed cameras are solely a public-safety tool.

“He’s said that over and over again,” said Williams spokeswoman Sharon Gang. “He doesn’t see them as money-raisers. They are a safety feature.”

The District has seven speed cameras — six mounted in cruisers and one stationary camera mounted on a pole in the 600 block of Florida Avenue NE near Gallaudet University.

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