Comment: Mukilteo needs traffic cameras for safety, less noise

Drivers are routinely exceeding speed limits as they pass a school and parks on Mukilteo Speedway.

By Tom Jordal / For The Herald

The City of Mukilteo is considering adding traffic cameras at the north end of Mukilteo Speedway.

Three locations are being considered: near Rosehill; near Olympic View Middle School; and near 92nd Street Park. The cameras are being considered to address the problems of speeding and noise on Mukilteo Speedway, primarily leaving the waterfront heading south on Mukilteo Speedway. L

Local residents have long endured the noise of vehicles accelerating up the hill on Mukilteo Speedway. A study conducted over two weeks this summer and fall determined the speeding problem to be significant. At Rosehill, 14.6 percent of all southbound traffic was going 11 mph or more over the speed limit, with 2 percent of all vehicles exceeding the speed limit by 20 mph.

In the school zone where safety is the concern and the speed limit is 25 mph when lights are flashing, 78 percent of all cars exceeded the speed limit. Near 92nd Street Park, 13 percent to 23 percent of all vehicles headed north were speeding by 11 mph or more. The Mukilteo Police Department does its best to control traffic in these areas, but with a limited number of officers on duty at any given time, they must prioritize the most urgent and pressing calls, which limits their time for traffic control.

The proposed cameras will take photos of vehicles that exceed the speeding threshold during designated periods of time. The cameras near Byer’s Park and at 92nd Street would be triggered by drivers exceeding the speed limit by 11 mph during park opening hours. The camera near Olympic Middle School would be triggered by drivers exceeding the limit by 6 mph when the school zone lights are flashing.

The cameras would be inactive unless triggered by vehicles exceeding these speeds. The speeding vehicle and its license plate are captured while the driver and any visible passengers are blacked out from the video. This data on speeders is transmitted from a private company, which operates the cameras, to the Mukilteo Police. The police then review the video and driver data and issue a ticket. The ticket issued is considered similar to a parking infraction and does not affect a driver’s record regarding insurance rates.

The expected benefits of installing traffic cameras in these specific locations are simple and relatively predictable based on data from the many cameras already in use in Washington state. Drivers learn that they need to abide by the speed limit, or they receive a ticket in the mail. Historical data shows that 96 percent or more of drivers change their driving behavior and adhere to the speed limit. Installing traffic cameras at the north end of Mukilteo Speedway will reduce speeding and noise, making the road safer and the neighborhood more peaceful.

Mukilteo residents have raised several concerns regarding traffic cameras. Many people don’t want to get caught for speeding unless there’s a police officer involved. This is a personal preference that would require additional police officers, higher expenses and ultimately higher taxes to serve the preference of speeders.

Some say it’s unfair to expect drivers to change their behavior with no warning. During the first month of operation, the system will issue a warning citation. There are currently speed limit signs, speed indicator signs and school zone warning signs on the Speedway to alert drivers to the speed limit.

Residents may be concerned they can’t protest a ticket. There is a simple online tool available for explaining extenuating circumstances.

Some people object to traffic cameras because they consider them a government “money grab.” Traffic fines will generate revenue to cover the costs of the third-party camera operator, and any remaining funds will be split between Washington state and Mukilteo for traffic safety uses. It will be up to the city and its council to craft rules and direct the use of funds to align with the proposed intention of changing driver behavior.

The city and council will be discussing the traffic camera proposal at its Dec. 4 meeting. We welcome your insights and opinions on this proposal to help Mukilteo and its council make informed plans and decisions.

Tom Jordal is member of the Mukilteo City Council. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily that of other council members.

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