Baltimore County eyes $21 million extension of red light and speed camera program

Baltimore County is considering moves to expand the number of locations where speed cameras can be deployed and extend its entire traffic camera enforcement program for more than a decade.

Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler, whose term in office ends in early December, is proposing a contract with a new red light and speed camera vendor that could be worth up to $21 million over the life of the deal. The contract would last more than 11 years if all extensions are carried out.

Baltimore County Council members, who are scheduled to vote on the new contract on Monday, have raised concerns about the program and how the money is spent.

Under the proposed contract, American Traffic Solutions would take over the county’s camera enforcement system in January from the current vendor, Conduent.

The county currently has 10 fixed red-light cameras and 36 speed cameras, which rotate to different locations near schools. The proposed contract requires American Traffic Solutions to evaluate more potential sites for speed cameras and expand locations from 61 to 78.

The company would be paid $23 for each red-light ticket and $3,195 per month for each speed camera it operates. The company also would get extra pay — $390 per month — for any red-light cameras that also are used for video surveillance or reading license plates.

Keith Dorsey, the county’s budget director, told council members this week that the new contract reflects a better price and service than the old contract. He said the contract includes penalties for the vendor if the cameras break down or generate poor-quality pictures.

Motorists are fined $75 for red light camera violations and $40 for speed camera tickets. Baltimore County officials initially said they planned to raise red light camera fines from $75 to $100, but that announcement was made in error, a county spokeswoman said.

Baltimore County has used the money from camera-generated fines to pay for law enforcement needs, primarily the body cameras worn by patrol officers. Some council members said they’d rather see the money spent on items related to traffic safety, such as speed bumps and electronic signs that show a driver’s speed.

Councilman Tom Quirk, a Democrat who represents Catonsville, Arbutus and Lansdowne, said those items “are things that our constituents, believe me, want every single day.” He suggested during a public hearing this week that the council could restrict the camera ticket money so that half goes to traffic calming and half could go to police.

“If we say we want 50 percent of this revenue to go to traffic calming, we should be able to do that,” Quirk said.

“I truly want it to be about traffic calming, not grabbing the dollars,” said Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat.

Michael Field, the county’s attorney, warned that if the council tries to pass legislation on how the money is spent, the county could end up with a gap of no red light and speed cameras.

“That’s the danger in trying to make a policy point in holding up this contract,” he told council members.

Councilman Todd Crandell raised concerns that the county might want to expand the number of speed cameras.

“It is possible to do something more than what we have. Yes, that’s possible,” Dorsey replied. “Right now there’s no plans to do any more than the 36 we have today.”

Council members are scheduled to vote on the contract Monday night, the last meeting of the term before County Executive-elect Johnny Olszewski Jr. and the new council is sworn into office on Dec. 3. Six of the seven council members will return to the new council.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter


UPDATES:

3:45 p.m. Thursday: This article has been updated to remove references to a plan by Baltimore County to increase fines for red light camera tickets. A previous announcement of an increase was made in error, county officials said.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
32°