Saturday, September 02, 2006

Red-light cameras to be placed along state highways

Eyeing cameras on Texas roadways

Rowlett hopes to watch intersections by Dec. 1; Plano, Frisco to follow

September 2, 2006

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2006

Rowlett, Plano and Frisco expect to be among the first North Texas cities to operate red-light cameras along state highways in the wake of a ruling by the Texas attorney general's office.

Cameras along Lakeview Parkway (State Highway 66) in Rowlett are expected to begin photographing red-light runners by Dec. 1. It's unclear when Plano's and Frisco's new cameras would be installed and operating.

Plano police Lt. Jeff Wise said he sent an official request to the Texas Department of Transportation this week. He declined to specify intersections until plans are approved, though he said some were likely to be on Preston Road and State Highway 121.

"We've already started the approval process for expansion" of the program, said Lt. Wise, who oversees the program. "We've got intersections identified, but they could change as we move forward."

Frisco spokeswoman Dana Baird said her city would send its request to the state Transportation Department next week.

Rowlett officials have been talking with the state for several weeks, but the city hasn't yet decided which intersections would be monitored by cameras, Police Chief Matt Walling said. Several Lakeview intersections are being considered, including those at Dexham, Rowlett and Dalrock roads. The intersection with the future Bush Turnpike extension – currently where Liberty Grove and Kirby Road meet Lakeview – could also be included, but construction plans for the toll road could affect the city's decision.

Lakeview is among Rowlett's most accident-prone roads, with more than 600 crashes reported since 1999. Chief Walling said the department didn't know how many of those stemmed from red-light running.

"It's because of the speeds and the volume of traffic," he said.

Other cities, including Garland and Richardson, are continuing to investigate whether to use the cameras on state roads.

"Before we do this, we want to show a definitive causative link between red-light runners and accidents," Richardson police Sgt. Kevin Perlich said. "We're still talking about it and looking at the data."

Since the opinion from the attorney general's office in June gave the go-ahead for electronic enforcement on state roads, several cities have shown interest, said Carlos Lopez, director of the state Transportation Department's traffic operations division. He said cities like Rowlett and Plano are finding that state roads, whether frontage roads or highways that act as city streets, have some of their most dangerous intersections.

In Houston, which planned to implement a camera program Friday, the first 10 monitored intersections won't be on state roads. Houston police spokesman John Cannon said highways – especially frontage road intersections – are expected to be added later. Houston plans to roll out cameras 10 at a time, he said, targeting the city's most dangerous intersections.

Several other changes will be made to the Rowlett program. Contractor Affiliated Computer Services Inc. will begin collecting fines that are more than 80 days overdue and will launch a Web site for people to pay fines from red-light violations. The city will also begin charging a late fee for delinquent fines.


© 2006 The Dallas Morning News Co