Evergreen Way at Casino Road in Everett is one of seven locations where the city plans to install a traffic camera. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Evergreen Way at Casino Road in Everett is one of seven locations where the city plans to install a traffic camera. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Traffic cameras get the green light from Everett council

Some City Council members and residents continue to question the equity of the planned red-light and school-speed-zone program.

EVERETT — City leaders are ready to deploy traffic-enforcement cameras around town, almost 15 years after the city first embraced their use to nab drivers who run red lights and speed in school zones.

On Wednesday, the City Council agreed to hire a firm to install and operate cameras at six intersections and Horizon Elementary School. 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.

• Evergreen Way at 112th Street SW.

Proposals are due next month, with the council potentially awarding a contract in July and cameras operating six to eight months later, according to a timeline drafted by city staff. As proposed, the initial contract would run five years.

The decision, approved on a 6-1 vote, implements the Automated Traffic Safety Camera Program that has been on the books since 2008.

Council members tabled action in January amid questions about the program and equity in the choice of intersections.

During Wednesday’s discussion, members said it wasn’t an easy decision. Those in the majority stressed they view cameras as a tool for making those intersections safer but not the only step the city must take.

“I’ve gone yes-no, yes-no, yes-no in my own head,” said Councilmember Liz Vogeli. “We desperately need change in our physical environment to make it safer for everybody. I am in favor of red light cameras. I am in favor of slowing people down at Horizon.”

Councilmember Paula Rhyne cast the dissenting vote. She reiterated her concern with the equity of placing cameras at intersections in some of the city neighborhoods with the lowest median income and high populations of people of color.

“I can say with certainty that every single person here wants safe streets. We want it to be safe to walk, safe to bike, safe to stroller, safe to drive,” she said. “But my concerns remain with the equity of this proposal and its fine-based system that disproportionately impacts low-income people who are disproportionately communities of color.”

The NAACP Snohomish County and Snohomish Ebony PAC submitted a joint letter opposing the program. Everett resident Demi Chatters read it during public comments.

In it, the groups cite “mounting evidence” that camera programs have “zero” positive impact on safety while hurting people of color and low-income families. And, she said, studies show that while T-bone crashes — in which one vehicle strikes the side of another — may decline, rear-end collisions climb.

Councilmember Mary Fosse, citing opposition from leaders of communities of color, sought to table the decision for a month to allow for more conversations. She said public trust in the program will be undermined if residents feel steamrolled by the process.

Her motion failed. She did vote to solicit proposals.

Councilmember Judy Tuohy said the city should closely monitor the program to make sure it does not target any particular community members.

Everett staff estimate annual revenue from fines would be $1,375,000, though the penalty, likely between $124 and $250, has not been set.

Annual costs, including the contract and employees to manage the program, would be $1,167,000. Council members said the net revenue, $208,000, should be spent on traffic safety projects such as enhanced crosswalks, lighting, sidewalks and speed beacons in the areas where cameras are installed.

Provisions in the proposal require that cameras capture the image at the precise time a vehicle crosses the stop line, where the traffic signal light turns red. The owner of the offending vehicle would be issued an infraction notice with the photographs of the violation from the supplier.

In addition, the city is requiring the camera system provide at least three digital color still images of each potential violation, including one that is a close-up of the license plate. No pictures should contain the face of a driver or passenger.

Council members hope the presence of cameras will get drivers to change their habits, boosting safety at those intersections.

Council President Brenda Stonecipher said they do.

“I have been someone who has been ticketed through a red light camera” for speeding in a school zone, she said, not revealing in which city. Now, when in that same area, “I absolutely never speed down that road.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dospueblos.

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