Drivers reach the intersections of Evergreen Way at East Casino Road and Highway 526. The Everett City Council is considering installing red-light enforcement cameras here and at other locations. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Drivers reach the intersections of Evergreen Way at East Casino Road and Highway 526. The Everett City Council is considering installing red-light enforcement cameras here and at other locations. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Amid concerns, Everett council puts off traffic camera vote

Some council members and residents questioned the equity of a red-light and school-speed-zone program.

EVERETT — Amid engineering and equity concerns, Everett City Council members are getting a little more time to consider implementing a camera traffic enforcement program on the books since 2008.

The city held off starting the Automated Traffic Safety Camera Program while legal challenges in other cities were settled. It then fell by the side as the council changed and dealt with other matters, until momentum on the red-light and school-zone cameras was revived in 2019.

If implemented, six intersections and Horizon Elementary School would get cameras. The intersections are: Broadway at 16th Street, 41st Street at Rucker Avenue, Evergreen Way at Casino Road, Evergreen Way at Fourth Avenue W, Seventh Avenue SE at Everett Mall Way and Evergreen Way at 112th Street SW.

The concentration of locations in south Everett has caused some concern. But city traffic engineer Corey Hert said four of the nine red-light cameras would be installed at 41st Street or north, and the remaining five are south.

Michelle Stewart of Everett asked the city to get an independent equity analysis and for a list of the 20 intersection locations with the most crashes in Everett.

“As a resident, it does feel like perhaps these certain sites are just being picked,” Stewart said during public comment at last week’s council meeting.

Initially, staff asked the council for action Feb. 9 after a briefing Wednesday. But Council President Brenda Stonecipher agreed last week with Councilmembers Mary Fosse and Paula Rhyne to table a vote on the request for proposals.

Rhyne said she had equity concerns because the cameras are in some of the city neighborhoods with the lowest median income and high populations of people of color.

“I believe whenever there is a punitively based system that’s based on a flat fee, it disproportionately impacts our low-income communities,” Rhyne said.

Fosse and Rhyne both said they had not met with residents in their districts, respectively 1 and 2. Each of those districts would have one camera location.

Some residents are weighing in now.

In a memo to city officials, Stewart urged them to include results of an independent equity analysis into the traffic enforcement program.

“The income and race demographics of (southeast) Everett present city leadership with an excellent opportunity to apply a racial equity analysis to the proposed Automated Traffic Safety Camera Program,” Stewart wrote in the memo.

Hert, Everett’s traffic engineer, said he would assemble data from the 20 intersections with the most collisions into a presentable way for the public.

Supporters of photo enforcement for red lights and speed have touted studies that show fewer fatal collisions with the cameras.

“Major cities that removed their systems saw their crashes return to their previous norms,” Hert said.

Luis Burbano, who lives in District 4, said in an email to the council and city staff that he supported the program as a means to make his neighborhood safer.

“I would like you to know that driving around our district is quite frightening and that you can count with my support for the implementation of the traffic cameras,” Burbano wrote.

But critics worry the city is skipping infrastructure investments in favor of cameras.

In an email, Everett resident Brian Doennebrink asked the council to put engineering investments ahead of the camera program.

“We all love conveniences of some kind or another: takeout food, drive-through coffee, grocery pickup,” Doennebrink wrote. “In the matter of traffic cameras, that’s what city staff is seeking: buy some cameras, take money out of the economy, make some money for the city, problem solved, next issue!”

Instead of starting with camera enforcement, Doennebrink asked the city to replace pedestrian crossing signals at the recommended intersections with ones that include countdown timers; install hard centerlines to encourage slower turns; pedestrian head-starts at crosswalks and different timing sequences; longer yellow light times; and plastic posts between traffic lanes and the bike lanes on West Casino Road.

Everett staff expect about 1,300 violations cited per year. That would amount to $1,375,000 in annual revenue, though the fine amount, likely between $124 and $250, has not been set.

The program is estimated to cost $1,167,000 annually. About $504,000 would pay for four full-time employees to help manage the program.

Any net revenue must be spent on other traffic safety projects such as enhanced crosswalks, lighting, sidewalks and speed beacons, per the ordinance.

District 5 Councilmember Ben Zarlingo said he wants the program’s net revenue spent on the areas where the cameras are installed.

Lynnwood, an early adopter of the devices, has collected millions of dollars in fines. Some of that goes to the vendor, and the rest into the city’s coffers.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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