MUKILTEO — The city might need to change the name of Mukilteo Speedway to Mukilteo Speedtrap.
The Mukilteo City Council this week approved an ordinance to install automated traffic cameras at three sites near schools and parks on the main drag through town.
The cameras will be on Mukilteo Speedway near Fourth Street, Olympic View Middle School and 92nd Street Park. The cameras will operate at certain times, not continuously.
“Our goal is to lower speeds and make school and park zones safer for kids and runners and pedestrians,” Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn said. “I am optimistic that within six months we can have the program up and running.”
These are speed cameras, not red light cameras. It will still take an officer, not a camera, to nail somebody blowing through a red light.
There will be plenty of warning, including a public awareness campaign to alert motorists of the cameras.
Illyn said the cameras enable his force to focus on crimes and community engagement.
“On average, it takes an officer about 15 minutes to do a traffic stop,” he said.
A camera zaps a traffic violation in a matter of seconds, one after another. It will take an officer about 15 to 20 seconds to review the recorded infraction.
“I only have so many officers who only have so many hours in the day,” Illyn said.
Automated cameras are a “force multiplier” that free up officers tied to school and park zones running radar or enforcing traffic.
Illyn, named chief in October, launched a campaign for speed cameras in June when he began serving as interim chief after Cheol Kang resigned.
Prior to this week’s vote, the topic was discussed at length during council work sessions and meetings, with public input.
“In Washington state, we are seeing a huge increase in crime,” Illyn said. “We don’t have enough officers, so we need to start leveraging technology to free up our officers.”
A camera infraction is treated as a parking ticket, not a traffic violation, and doesn’t impact insurance or driving records.
The cost to violators is 30% less than if an officer issues the same ticket.
A regular $176 speeding ticket by an officer would be $123 by a camera. A camera ticket in a school zone will be $170, compared to $243 by an officer.
Fines increase as the speed violation increases.
The majority of tickets are expected to go to drivers who don’t live in Mukilteo.
“Most cities find that 70 to 80% of the infractions are going to non-residents,” Illyn said. “They are going to people transiting through the community.”
The cameras will only activate during set times when triggered by excess speed.
The camera in the 400 block of the Speedway will monitor southbound traffic during Rosehill Community Center hours. The 92nd Street camera will scan northbound traffic during park hours. Cameras at Olympic View and Mukilteo Elementary will monitor traffic both ways only when school zone beacons are flashing.
According to two-week speed studies conducted in summer and fall, about 15% of all southbound vehicles were speeding in the Fourth Street area, which gets a lot of ferry traffic heading into town. The Mukilteo and Olympic View school zones showed that about 53% of all cars were going 6-plus mph over the speed limit while school zone signs were flashing. At 92nd Street Park, an average of 16.5% of vehicles traveling north went 46 to 55 mph in a 35 mph zone.
Illyn said the city won’t pay more for cameras than it collects in fines and can stop if the ticket revenues don’t cover the costs. The monthly rental fee is a maximum of $4,275 to $5,700 per camera.
Two vendors submitted bids for the project. The city chose Florida-based NovoaGlobal, which operates projects in Washington, for the five-year contract. The firm will handle the signage, installation, mailing of infractions and payment processing. Police staff will manage the program and review tickets.
The City Council voted 5-2 to pass the traffic camera ordinance. Council members Steve Schmalz and Riaz Khan opposed the cameras.
“There needs to be a multi-facet program by using radar speed indicators to help slow traffic down, not just one instrument,” Schmalz said. “We should be educating drivers, not just punishing them.”
He had concerns about people avoiding the cameras and finding alternative routes. That could put more pressure on the residential streets, he said.
The cameras capture the license plate and vehicle, but not the driver or passengers. People can contest automated traffic camera tickets with a sworn statement that the registered owner was not in control of the vehicle at the time the ticket was issued.