Council to consider expanding the use of 'red light' cameras

The Bellevue City Council on Monday will consider whether to take a police department recommendation to expand traffic enforcement cameras around the city that staff reports could mean better driving habits, reduced collisions and even more revenue for the city.

Traffic enforcement cameras were authorized by the City Council in 2009, with two school speed zone cameras at Stevenson and Lake Hills elementary schools and red-light cameras at the north and southbound intersections of 148th Avenue Northeast and Bel-Red Road and southbound 148th Avenue Northeast and Main Street.

In the four full years of operations for the photo enforcement program through an agreement with American Traffic Solutions — a $249,000 annual expense — the city has gained $2.3 million in revenue through infractions, according to city data. The fine is $124 per infraction. The city also reports a decrease in infractions at these targeted locations of 48 percent from 2010 to 2013.

Southbound 148th and Main infractions increased by 19 percent in that same time, which the city reports may be attributed to redevelopment of the Kelsey Creek Shopping Center, where more drivers were making left-hand turns onto Main. The Lake Hills Elementary School also saw a 9 percent increase in speed zone camera infractions, which the city states may be attributed to increased traffic on Southeast Eighth Street due to the West Lake Sammamish Parkway reconstruction project. At Stevenson Elementary, infractions dropped 33 percent. For other intersections with red-light cameras, double-digit decreases in infractions were recorded, with an 81-percent drop on Southbound 148th and Bel-Red Road.

The Bellevue Police Department is recommending the City Council on Monday approve expanding the photo enforcement program to include red-light cameras at Northeast Eighth Street and 116th Avenue Northeast westbound, Northeast Eighth and 112th Avenue Northeast east and westbound and a southbound speed zone camera for Sunset Elementary at West Lake Sammamish Boulevard. This would mean a cost increase for service through ATS of $192,000.

Collisions recorded at 112th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Eighth have increased annually since 2011, when there was 19, to 28 in 2013. There was a spike in collisions at 116th and Northeast Eighth from 18 in 2011 to 25 in 2012. That number dropped in 2013 to 16.

The council also will have the option of disbanding the program, which would mean a loss of general fund revenue for police services, or continuing with the current program. Both options for expansion or continuing the program as is would be for a 5-year period. The current contract is set to expire April 30.


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