- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is pushing to expand the District’s use of automated enforcement even as the city is on pace to collect a record amount of revenue from its red-light-camera network and the second-highest total ever from its speed-camera program.

Through the first seven months of fiscal 2009, the city had issued 53,094 citations from its 49 red-light-camera locations and brought in $4.3 million in fine revenue, putting the District on pace to rake in $7.4 million by the end of September.

Since the program’s inception in 1999, the highest total brought in by the devices in a fiscal year was $7.2 million in 2000, Metropolitan Police Department statistics show.

Meanwhile, the District’s network of photo-radar cameras is on pace to bring in $30 million of revenue this fiscal year - second only to the $32.9 million brought in during fiscal 2006.

“Years after the program was implemented, the numbers keep going up,” said John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Just doing enforcement may not be enough, because we’re not changing behavior.”



The monetary success of the programs comes as Mr. Fenty’s fiscal 2010 budget plan proposes expanding them by measures that include modifying red-light cameras to catch speeders, taking snapshots of gridlock-causing motorists and using laser technology to catch motorists exceeding the speed limit in city tunnels.

The proposal assumes the enhanced programs would generate $20 million in revenue, officials said. The D.C. Council will vote on Mr. Fenty’s budget Tuesday.

Council members already have moved to strike revenue-generating proposals contained in the spending plan, such as raising the city’s emergency 911 phone charges and creating an annual $51 streetlight maintenance fee attached to residents’ electric bills.

But Phil Mendelson, chairman of the council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, said there are no plans to remove the automated-enforcement expansion from the mayor’s spending proposal.

He said that while he supports the cameras for traffic enforcement, “If it was done properly we wouldn’t be dealing with it right now.”

“The motivation seems to be about finding money for the budget, and if it wasn’t about finding money for the budget, we would be talking about this at some other time of the year,” said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat.

The mayor has said the camera expansion will allow the city “to utilize technology to consistently enforce and modify driving behaviors that are detrimental to public safety.”

Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, said city officials are forced to balance the need for safer streets with opposition to camera enforcement - the same dynamic faced with the city’s decision to put cameras on street sweepers.

But the council member also said his constituents often request cameras to slow down drivers speeding along their streets, and he supports the mayor’s proposal.

“I have more neighborhoods that want speeding cameras than I can manage,” he said.

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