Mill Creek bucks trend, drops red-light cameras

MILL CREEK — Perhaps life moves slower in Mill Creek.

“Maybe our drivers are just more polite,” Mill Creek Mayor Terry Ryan said.

Whatever the reason, Mill Creek officials recently hit the brakes on a plan to use red-light cameras at intersections in the city because too few drivers are running red lights.

A consultant’s study of three of the city’s busiest intersections showed the worst of the problems to be at the intersection of 164th Street SE and Mill Creek Boulevard. During a 12-hour monitoring period, 11 drivers heading east were photographed running the light. Six of those were drivers making right-hand turns, not speeding across the intersection.

“There was the perception out there that there are red-light runners,” Mill Creek City Manager Tim Burns said. “Based on the consultant’s observations, they said there are a few, but the numbers show it’s not such a safety hazard where we need to implement the cameras.”

Statewide, a growing number of cities are either studying or using the technology.

In Lynnwood, police have sent out thousands of tickets and collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines to the registered owners of vehicles photographed running red lights.

Everett has plans to install red light cameras, and the technology is also being considered for use in Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace.

“Lynnwood just has a lot more traffic than we do,” Ryan said. “Just the sheer proportionality of it lends to them having more infractions than we do.”

Like Mill Creek, the city of Yakima steered clear from installing digital cameras at intersections. In February 2007, the Yakima City Council nixed the idea after hearing from a company that sells the cameras.

“I think the bottom line is, as we looked at things that were important in Yakima, that wasn’t one of them,” said Dave Edler, the city’s mayor.

Mill Creek officials say the main reason to install the cameras would be to improve safety.

If there are few drivers running red lights, then installing cameras now would not be worthwhile, Ryan said.

“I think the answer is more enforcement with police officers,” he said. “With the type of problem we have, it could probably be resolved with a little more enforcement, as opposed to a camera.”

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or spesznecker@heraldnet.com.

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