City to review traffic photo systems

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

A digital speed enforcement system for school zones might make a return appearance in Bonney Lake.

A committee of three city officials is planning a trip to Scottsdale, Ariz., to get an up-close look at two systems being considered by the Public Safety Committee.

Councilman Dave King, who is chairman of the Public Safety Committee, Court Administrator Kathy Seymour and Officer Vince Sainati are scheduled to travel to Arizona the last week of April. The plan is to spend one day or a day and a night, returning the following day.

The group will hear a pitch from the Redflex digital photo enforcement system and a similar system from American Traffic Systems. ATS has its headquarters in Scottsdale. Redflex is an Australian company with an office in Scottsdale.

According to City Administrator Don Morrison, the committee will look carefully at the two systems and “see if they have what we want. We have no contracts at this point and no decisions have been made.”

During the 2006-2007 school year the city used the Nestor photo enforcement system in school zones.

City officials note that the Nestor system slowed traffic in school speed zones, particularly on Locust Avenue. The problem was the company's inconsistent customer service with handling tickets.

After the photo enforcement system was ended in June 2007, the city installed flashing lights to indicate the speed zone on Locust and in front of Emerald Hills Elementary. The time of the speed zone was also changed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The flashing lights were funded through a grant from the Washington State Traffic Commission. Also included in the grant was money for a speed trailer that flashes the driver's speed. The trailer's computer system keeps a running count of the number of cars and speeds during the period it is in place.

King said during the trip to Arizona the group will look at both speed zone and red light enforcement systems, “but there is a lot to debate about the red light system. The (Bonney Lake) police did a study and found there were few accidents from people running red lights at intersections on state Route 410.

The councilman said it is important for citizens to understand the photo enforcement system is not meant to bring revenue into the city.

“The purpose in the mind of the City Council is to prevent accidents,” King said. “It's a great system when it modifies school zone speeding. Unfortunately when it becomes nonself-supporting, we have to decide if it has to be taken out.”

The Nestor system initially pulled in considerable revenue, but by the end of the contract it was just meeting expenses. The cost of the Nestor system was $9,000 per month.

The Nestor system contract did not cost the city any money. Funds gathered paid for the monthly charge and revenues above the fee were kept by the city. If the tickets did not meet the monthly payment, the company took the hit and the city paid nothing.

The Redflex and ATS systems being considered will likely be less accommodating to the city, which is another reason the committee and council will consider the pros and cons before jumping into the photo enforcement again.

Dennis Box can be reached at Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

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