Thursday, September 11, 2008
Santa Fe OKs Camera System
By Kiera Hay
Journal Northern Bureau
SANTA FE — Red-light runners, be warned. You'll be on film.
On Wednesday night, Santa Fe became the second city in New Mexico with a red-light camera program when the City Council approved the proposal 5-3 after an often impassioned hourlong debate. A public hearing attracted 10 people about evenly split against and in favor of the system.
Rick Gutierrez was among the speakers. In 2004, the Santa Fean's wife was killed and his daughter seriously injured when a bus driver ran a red light and hit their car at the intersection of Yucca Street and Rodeo Road.
"Since that time, I personally have witnessed five different incidents where people have run that same red light in front of me," said Gutierrez, who urged the City Council to approve the red-light camera program.
"In Santa Fe, running a red light or a stop sign is not the exception. It's the norm," he said. "Something needs to be done. I think this is a good step in moving in that direction."
Those who spoke out against the program argued that, among other things, the program wouldn't make Santa Fe safer, the city could become too dependent on the program for revenue, and profit would become the program's main goal by bringing in a private company. The obligatory references to George Orwell's "1984" were also made.
With the vote, Santa Fe joins Albuquerque as the only New Mexico municipalities with red-light camera programs, though the Las Cruces City Council is set to consider a similar proposal next week and officials in Española also have indicated interest.
The program approved by the City Council proposes to catch speeders and red-light violators using cameras placed at some of the busiest — and most crash-heavy — areas in Santa Fe. The four intersections slated for camera installation are all along Cerrillos Road: at St. Michael's Drive, St. Francis Drive, Richards Avenue and Zafarano Street. A mobile van designed to catch speeders also will be part of the program. Police expect to issue about 2,000 citations a month, police Capt. Anthony Robbin said.
Drivers will be fined $66 the first time they run a red light, $117 for a second violation within two years, and $168 for a third violation. Speeders will be docked anywhere from $86 for driving 5 to 10 miles per hour above the speed limit in school and construction zones to $456 for drivers traveling 35 miles per hour over the speed limit.
Revenue generated from the program will, according to city documents, be placed in a special fund designated for contracted services and the equipment necessary to implement and maintain the program. Any excess revenue will first be used to resynchronize traffic signals participating in the program, with the remainder going toward public safety needs, including officers' salaries.
The city still must select and sign a vendor to implement and operate the program — Arizona-based Redflex is the likely choice — and schedule a grace period in which people will be only be issued warning citations. If all goes smoothly, Santa Feans could tentatively be looking at a December or January start date, Robbin said.