THEY’RE BACK: Metro-area drivers have been of two minds when it comes to speeding:
1. When is the city finally going to get serious about slowing these maniacs down?
2. When do the speed cameras go live so I can avoid getting a ticket?
Officials with Mayor Tim Keller’s administration and the Albuquerque Police Department laid out answers to both to the Journal Editorial Board on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Keller said he was putting drivers “on notice.”
That’s because in Albuquerque, as in many cities during the pandemic, drivers went a little, sometimes a lot, wild. Fewer vehicles on the road, combined with cabin fever, has contributed to triple-digit speeds on many of our roads, and not just in the wee hours of the night – APD says officers have stopped drivers going 122 mph on Gibson at 10:30 a.m. and 113 mph on Montgomery at 5 p.m.
Deputy Chief Michael Smathers says based on data gathered since last fall, the 10 cameras planned in the automated speed system could have issued 800,000 citations. A month.
WHAT: Automated speed enforcement citations, which are civil fines that do not go on your driving record or to your insurance company.
WHEN: The program kicks off next Monday, April 25, with a one-month warning period. Citations will start going out May 25.
WHERE: The 10-camera system will start with three fixed units – cameras mounted on poles – on Gibson east- and westbound between Carlisle and San Mateo, and on eastbound Montgomery between Wyoming and Eubank.
The city plans to add four more fixed units along with three mobile units. Officials said they are still crunching numbers to see where to place those and will work to ensure they are spread out over the nine City Council districts and six APD area commands because “every street has a speeding problem” in Albuquerque.
And while the city is working with the New Mexico Department of Transportation to allow the cameras on state roads – think Tramway, Paseo del Norte and Coors – because the Transportation Commission banned their use in March 2010, APD says having the cameras on city roads is a “force multiplier,” freeing up officers to do live speed enforcement on state stretches and issue criminal citations.
APD also says officers will use camera data to identify trouble spots and look for repeat bad actors.
HOW MUCH: Unlike criminal citations, which go up with how many miles over the posted speed limit you were going ($25 for 1-10 mph, $30 for 11-15 mph, $65 for 16-20 mph, $100 for 21-25 mph, $125 for 26-30 mph, $150 for 31-35 mph and $200 for 35 mph-plus), every civil citation is a $100 fine.
The city’s previous traffic camera system did not ticket drivers going less than 10 mph over. This time around, officials would only say they will not ticket for 1 mph over, declined to identify any “safe” number to speed and not get a citation, and explained any tolerances programmed into the system will be tailored to locations and likely much lower in school zones.
Drivers who get cited can pay the fine, do four hours of community service within 90 days, or schedule an administrative hearing in the City Clerk’s Office. Those who ignore the citation will be turned over to a collection agency.
HOW TO FIGHT IT: Drivers who feel they were wrongly cited will be able to schedule that administrative hearing and, if they disagree with the outcome, take it to state District Court. At that point APD would weigh in along with the camera vendor, NovoaGlobal. FYI for those already formulating their arguments, officials said the camera radar self-calibrates every 24 hours.
GOLF COURSE/WESTSIDE CLOSED: The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority will install a 20-inch pipe across the Golf Course/Westside Boulevard intersection starting today through May 2.
Which means you can’t drive through that intersection for a week.
Drivers will be detoured around the work, with a loop east of the intersection taking them down Westside to Coors Bypass to Ellison, or Ellison to Coors Bypass to Westside.
The utility says in a news release crews are scheduled for two shifts, 16 hours a day (5 a.m. to 9 p.m.), seven days a week to finish ASAP.
Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; firstname.lastname@example.org; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.