As you know, the TxDOT sunset bill HB300 included among its many House amendments a couple that were aimed at killing off red light cameras in Texas' cities, by putting them under the authority of DPS and by forbidding the renewal of existing contracts with camera vendors. While it is entirely possible that these amendments will be removed by the Senate, it's safe to say that there exists legislative will to do away with the cameras. As such, the cities that operate them and which by and large have made money off of them are taking action now to protect their investments.
Officials in Arlington and Southlake are moving swiftly to sign 15- and 20-year deals with their respective vendors in hopes of getting around a plan by lawmakers to phase out the controversial devices.
"It's not the state's business. It's our business in terms of how we regulate local traffic," Arlington Councilman Mel LeBlanc said Wednesday. "We feel the original decision to institute red-light cameras has a lot of validity to it and is a public safety benefit to Arlington."
Meanwhile, Southlake signed a 15-year deal with Redflex Traffic Systems on Wednesday, extending the city's red-light camera program through 2024.
And Tuesday night, the Arlington City Council authorized staff to sign an extension with American Traffic Solutions through 2027. That hasn't happened yet, but city officials say they'll continue watching the activity in Austin and, if it looks like a ban is inevitable, sign the long-term deal before June 1.
Houston is "reviewing what our possible options are should the legislation pass," spokesman Frank Michel said. Houston's contract with ATS expires in June 2011.
Finally, on a tangential topic:
[Arlington] has cameras at 17 intersections and could place them at up to 40 under the contract. Wrecks at intersections with cameras have decreased 30 percent on average, said Steve Evans, management services director.
"We are seeing tangible benefits from the cameras," said Councilman Robert Rivera, who represents southeast Arlington. "We're seeing a reduction in fatalities, a reduction in accidents and an increased sense of awareness of safety in intersections."
Southlake installed its first two cameras last year and recently installed four more. Accidents at the first two intersections decreased by an average of 17 percent, officials said.
In North Richland Hills, nine cameras are in operation, spokesman Frank Fiorello said.
Crashes decreased by 54 percent at those intersections between September 2007 and August 2008.