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Montgomery County to add speed, red light cameras

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Local,Maryland,Rachel Baye

Drivers in Montgomery County can look forward to 10 new portable speed cameras and 20 new red light cameras before the end of 2013.

The additions will bolster the county's existing 72 speed cameras -- 56 fixed pole cameras, 10 portable cameras and six speed camera vans -- and 40 red light cameras.

Last fiscal year, the county issued 487,820 speed and 40,294 red light citations, earning the county a net $9.7 million after paying for the camera vendor, the county police officers and other employees who run the program and other operating expenses, County Council documents show.

Say 'cheese'
Fiscal 2011 Fiscal 2012 (estimated) Fiscal 2013 (estimated)
Speed citations issued 487,820 Not available Not available
Speed camera revenues $13,359,202 $11,999,870 $15,502,800
Speed camera expenses $5,246,844 $8,282,034 $8,451,572
Speed camera net revenues $8,112,358 $3,717,836 $7,051,228
Source: Montgomery County fiscal 2013 proposed operating budget

In the coming week, Montgomery County Police Department Traffic Division Director Capt. Thomas Didone said he plans to announce new camera locations. The division's website lists 115 locations in school zones and residential areas where county speed cameras could be, though the county moves the portable cameras and the camera vans based on where officials believe there is a need for speed enforcement.

The program can be hazardous, said Patricia Oliver, an employee with the county's Housing Opportunities Commission, who has received a couple of speeding citations. "People learn where the cameras are, and you have a massive traffic jam where people go from 50 to 30," speeding up after they have passed the cameras.

To address this phenomenon, the county will create "corridors" where a few cameras could be set up within a short stretch, Didone said.

For example, "we have one spot [on Gainsborough Road in Gaithersburg] where we have been doing enforcement, but Gainsborough Road is about a mile long," he said. "We want people to drive the speed limit in the entire stretch."

Speed camera programs have come under fire as ways for jurisdictions to take advantage of motorists and generate revenue.

"It's unjustified," said Rockville resident David Track, who said he has received a few speed camera citations and one red light citation. "It's clearly designed to make revenue than to help save lives."

Montgomery officials insist this is not the case.

"If the county's goal was to maximize revenue, you would see a lot more cameras than we have now," said County Councilman Phil Andrews, D-Gaithersburg/Rockville and chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee.

Speeding-related collisions dropped by 28 percent after the cameras were installed, he said, pointing to police data.

Since the county will be moving the cameras around to different locations, the county should give motorists notice before moving a specific camera, said John Townsend, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, which has been critical of Prince George's County for failing to do exactly that.

However, since Montgomery County has had its speed cameras for several years, it has no requirements to provide advance notice or a warning period, Didone said. "We will not be playing peekaboo, but we will not be announcing every week where we move the cameras."

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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