Poway's red-light cameras turned off

By Steve Dreyer

Red-light cameras at three Poway intersections  were shut off Friday night to start a six-month trial period.

Meeting Tuesday night, the City Council agreed to have the cameras turned off to judge whether their presence makes a difference in the number of accidents at the three intersections.

City crews removed the related signs on Saturday.

The red-light camera vendor, Rediflex, will not provide any services during the six-month test period, Heidermann said. The city has paid for the service through the end of March but will not be charged the $18,480 monthly fee during the balance of test period, he said.

A report on traffic accidents at the three intersections will be available about six weeks following the conclusion of the test period, according to Heidermann.

Mayor Don Higginson had recommended Tuesday night  the program be done away with entirely, but agreed that covering up the cameras a  for six months, much like the City of El Cajon decided recently to do, would be a good way to determine whether the camera system is effective.

Councilman Jim Cunningham urged the sheriff’s department to keep an eye on the three intersections so that motorists don’t feel as “they have a free pass to run red lights.”

Several cities in the county, including the City of San Diego, have recently decided to do away with the systems, which snap photos of vehicles running through intersections or making rolling “California stops” during right-hand turns. Several council members said the most of the citizen complaints they have received about the cameras have to do with the right-hand turns.

Poway was among the first cities in the region to install the cameras, in 2005. The systems are currently at three city intersections: Scripps Poway Parkway and Community Road, Ted Williams Parkway and Pomerado Road and Poway and Pomerado roads. The city contracts with Rediflex Traffic Systems, Inc.

In the seven years the program has been in operation, the number of broadside, or “T-bone” crashes at the three intersections has declined 53 percent, according to a city report prepared for the mayor. In the seven years prior to the cameras there were 62 crashes, or 8.9 per year. With the cameras operating the seven-year total was 29 crashes, or 4.1 per year. However, the number of rear-end accidents at these intersections increased 8 percent during the seven years of the right-light camera program, the report said.

Revenues returned to the city from tickets have been used for several traffic improvement projects. Higginson said the Poway cameras were approved as a way to better manage the time of sheriff’s deputies, who otherwise would be spending time writing tickets for suspected red-light running. Using the cameras as a revenue-generating source was not a factor, he said.

Three residents spoke on the issue Tuesday night. All supported the continued use of the cameras. Two suggested that more intersections be added to the program.

In agreeing to shut off the cameras for six months, the council asked city staff to explore other ways to cut down on red-light running, including extending the time yellow lights are on and programming a period when red lights are shown in all four intersection directions.

The El Cajon experiment was mentioned Tuesday night by City Attorney Morgan Foley, who also provides legal advice to that city.

In other matters, the City Council:

• Voted 3-2 to reduce the cost to food truck owners of obtaining a city-required license, ID cards and background checks for each employee, from $105 to $50. Councilmen Steve Vaus and Dave Grosch voted against the motion. The council briefly discussed, but then rejected, the idea of writing a special fee ordinance for food trucks.

• Heard that the city may end the 2012-13 fiscal year with a surplus of about $5 million, thanks largely to unexpected, one-time post-redevelopment payments from the county, revenues from the sale of a city-owned office building on Poway Road and money from a legal settlement. During budget deliberations in June, the council will discuss a staff suggestion, endorsed by Higginson, that much of the surplus be earmarked for a new community center in Community Park.

• Approved a conditional use permit allowing an existing building at 12160 Community Road (the former Alba Motor Sports building) to be used as an indoor trampoline center. Mike Foster is the applicant.

Pre-recorded Poway City Council meetings can be viewed on Cox Channel 24 and Time Warner Channel 19. Broadcast times are 6 p.m. on Monday, Thursday and Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

   
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