EVERETT — Seven intersections known for dangerous collisions and serial running of stoplights are being considered for controversial red-light traffic cameras.
The Everett City Council Public Safety Subcommittee reviewed the locations, considered a school zone speed enforcement camera site and possibly implementing a 2009 proposed ordinance at its second meeting on the subject earlier this week. It’s scheduled to discuss the issue again in January.
Back in 2009, the city did the legal and planning work to install cameras at six intersections. But a legal challenge in King County at the time gave city leaders pause, and the program was effectively shelved.
Now, after consistent collisions at those locations and people asking the city to improve safety, Everett officials have resumed consideration of the traffic-enforcement cameras and tout it solely on its merits to prevent crashes.
“This is a safety concern,” Councilmember Brenda Stonecipher said.
The main criticism of the cameras is that they are a cash grab by government with little safety improvement. Cities have netted millions in revenue. Lynnwood was an early adopter of the technology and brought in $19.2 million from traffic ticket fines between 2007 and 2016.
The cameras would operate on a lease with a vendor at about $4,750 per camera, Everett Public Works Director Ryan Sass said.
A 2017 Social Science Research Network study of Houston’s use of the camera program “showed no evidence that cameras reduce the total number of accidents,” one of its authors wrote.
Everett traffic engineer Tim Miller cited a 2005 Federal Highway Administration study that evaluated red-light camera programs in seven cities where the number of right-angle crashes decreased and rear-end collisions increased. Miller also cited a review by the Cochrane Collaboration that did not find a statistically significant change in rear-end crashes.
“It’s a small trade-off to reduce dangerous right-angle crashes by 25% or more,” he said.
If supported by the subcommittee and city council, red-light cameras would be installed at:
Northbound Rucker Avenue at Pacific Avenue;
Eastbound Pacific at Rucker;
Southbound Evergreen Way at Madison Street;
Northbound Evergreen at E. Casino Road;
Eastbound Casino and Evergreen;
Southwest-bound Evergreen at Fourth Avenue W.; and
Evergreen Way at the westbound Highway 526 off-ramp.
Also known as the Boeing Freeway, Highway 526 presents a problem for Everett police traffic enforcement because there isn’t a shoulder.
“There’s no good place to park to spot (infractions),” Miller said.
The school zone speed enforcement camera is being considered on Casino Road near Horizon Elementary School. Sass said the arterial nature of the road made it a prime candidate.
The subcommittee asked for speed data and input from the Mukilteo School District at its future meeting.
Signs would warn drivers that the enforcement cameras existed, wherever they were installed. The cameras take two pictures of vehicles and a few seconds of video near the rear license plate. Footage is reviewed by a police officer before a fine, likely between $124 and $250, is mailed out.
“The very intent is to change behavior,” Sass said.
Those infractions, similar to a parking ticket, are not reported to insurance companies. The vehicle owner can review the still images and video. Such fines can be contested, and would be done so in Everett Municipal Court.
A sudden increase in such fines could add work to the city’s court, which may add cost, Miller said.
Councilmember Liz Vogeli asked if a permanent traffic solution like a roundabout would be a better solution at some of the proposed intersections. Sass said they are a useful tool between a four-way stop and a traffic signal, but present other complications.
“The challenge with roundabouts is they take a lot of space and are about a million-dollar investment,” he said.
Increasing police patrols in those areas and retiming the signals are other options, Sass said. He also noted that in many of the intersections, the traffic signals use “telltale lights” that have a blue LED light turn on when the signal is red as a notice to law enforcement.
At Evergreen Way, which is part of Highway 99, Miller said the traffic volume is too great and too frequent for a feasible roundabout.
Revenue from the fines must go toward the cost of the program or traffic safety improvements, such as crosswalk or signal enhancements, or traffic safety enforcement, such as police officers and speed radars.
The subcommittee requested staff gather data about the number of collisions at the considered intersections and vehicle speed near Horizon Elementary School to discuss at its January meeting.