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Bellevue traffic cameras eye speeds in two school zones

New traffic enforcement cameras have been installed at the intersection of 143rd Avenue Northeast and Northeast 8th Street near Stevenson Elementary School in Bellevue. - Chad Coleman/Bellevue Reporter
New traffic enforcement cameras have been installed at the intersection of 143rd Avenue Northeast and Northeast 8th Street near Stevenson Elementary School in Bellevue.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Bellevue Reporter

Bellevue's new speed-enforcement cameras powered on in two school zones yesterday as students returned for their first day of classes.

The devices are operating near Stevenson and Lake Hills Elementary schools, monitoring westbound traffic along Northeast Eighth Street and 143rd Avenue Northeast, as well as Southeast Eighth Street and 143rd Place Southeast during start and release hours.

"The intent of this program is to alert drivers to the school zones, reduce speeds, and increase safety," said Bellevue Police Capt. John Manning in a written statement.

The city chose the photo-enforcement locations based on a history of violations and proximity to schools. There were 522 speeding citations during school-zone hours in the chosen areas last year, according to police.

Photo-enforcement signs are posted 150 feet in front of the new speed cameras to alert drivers that they should slow down. Infractions will eventually cost $124 per ticket, but the city is issuing only warnings until Sept. 30.

The Bellevue Police Department says it will review and approve all violations prior to giving citations. Vehicle owners can contest their tickets with sworn statements or testimonies to the court.

The city is yet to install its promised red-light cameras, due to come out at six intersections as part of a photo-enforcement program approved unanimously by the city council in April.

"The intersections for the red light safety program are still being evaluated, but we hope to have the program up and running this fall," said Bellevue Police spokeswoman Ofc. Carla Iafrate.

Traffic cameras have their critics. Bellevue was one of 22 cities hit with a class-action lawsuit over such systems.

The complaint alleges that the cities' photo-enforcement programs provide "illegal incentives to issue improper tickets," violate state law on photo-enforcement, and disregard the state and federal constitutions.

Bellevue city attorney Lori Riordan said in August that it was "premature, if not just inappropriate" to bring Bellevue into the lawsuit before the city had even implemented its program.

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