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Red-Light Cameras Back on Job

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The cameras are back, at least for now.

Albuquerque’s traffic cameras will be turned back on after city councilors approved a one-year contract extension with the company that operates the system. The agreement has options that allow it to be extended annually to five years.

The council voted 7-2 late Monday in favor of the contract, which is with Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. Dan Lewis and Michael Cook were the lone “no” votes.

Others said they were happy that the revised contract ensures the city budget will no longer subsidize operation of the cameras. Under the new agreement, Redflex has agreed to reimburse the city if revenue isn’t adequate to cover the city’s administrative costs.

“The contract is one-sided on behalf of the city,” said Councilor Trudy Jones, who voted for it.

She said the cameras are favored by residents in her district and that their presence reduces red-light running.

Redflex lobbyist Dick Minzner said the company hopes that enough citations are issued to make the program a money maker for the company, but he acknowledged that “this could be a losing proposition for Redflex” if that’s not the case. City finances shouldn’t be harmed no matter what, he said.

“That’s a contractual guarantee,” Minzner said.

Lewis urged councilors to reject the agreement. He questioned whether the city’s yellow lights are timed properly and suggested the administration could change or expand the program without council approval.

Most people who run red lights have only misjudged the length of the yellow light by a fraction of second, he said. In other words, they’re not reckless criminals, Lewis said.

Supporters say the cameras have improved public safety and that the program has been scaled back to comply with the results of a University of New Mexico study on its effectiveness.

Mayoral spokesman Chris Ramirez said sensors at the intersections show that red-light running went up significantly when the cameras were turned off at some intersections.

The camera program has been tinkered with several times since it started in 2005. Mayor Richard Berry has scaled it back, for example, by directing that it focus only on red-light runners, not speeders.

Lewis, meanwhile, had asked councilors to approve a plan to put the future of the cameras on the Oct. 4 city ballot, but councilors ran out of time and didn’t consider the measure before the meeting was adjourned a little before 11 p.m.

The basic operations of the camera system won’t change under the new contract. The cameras will remain at 14 intersections, with fines of $75 per violation. Revenue is split among Redflex, the city and the state.

In favor of the contract extension were Don Harris, Rey Garduño, Ken Sanchez, Debbie O’Malley, Isaac Benton, Brad Winter and Jones.

“I’m very pleased with the contract the administration has put together,” Sanchez said.

— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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