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More red light cameras going up

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Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:41 PM
NEW PORT RICHEY -

Drivers should get ready for their close-up picture soon.

Despite falling short on revenue projections for its first set of red-light cameras, New Port Richey is adding the devices at two more intersections to catch drivers who violate red traffic signals.

A bucket-truck crew was installing a red-light camera Tuesday afternoon at U.S. 19 and Trouble Creek Road. Another automated camera is scheduled to peer down at U.S. 19 and Floramar Terrace.

The timetable is not known yet when the additional cameras will go into operation. Messages left with American Traffic Solutions executives were not returned before press time.

Tempe, Ariz.-based ATS already manages the city's existing set of cameras along U.S. 19 at Main Street, Cross Bayou Boulevard, Gulf Drive and Marine Parkway.

The photographic traffic enforcement system can snap photos and videos of drivers who violate a red signal. Traffic citations, with fines starting at $158, are then mailed to offenders. The money from fines is split with the state.

The city sent out about 1,360 citations between July 28 and Aug. 28, Officer Greg Williams of the city police department reports. Police reviewed about 1,860 cases in all.

Patrol officers believe the cameras have helped decrease side-impact traffic crashes caused by red-light runners, Williams said.

At a recent meeting, city council members expressed concern red-light camera revenue is falling short of expectations during the first year of operation. City officials, however, have adjusted calculations for projections of red-light camera tickets in fiscal 2013, which starts Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, Port Richey leaders are watching appeals of red-light camera tickets on constitutional grounds.

Port Richey helped pioneer use of the cameras years before state lawmakers authorized their use in 2010 and took a cut of the revenue. The city reported 259 tickets were issued for the week of July 21-27 alone. The following week generated 136 tickets, and 174 tickets Aug. 4-10.

The appeals should not affect New Port Richey, which installed the devices after state authorization.

Port Richey City Attorney Joseph Poblick said Tuesday night that numerous, local appeals are winding their way through the courts, but no decisions have been forthcoming.

Local officials are keeping an eye on an appeal of a red-light ticket case in Orlando that could result in refunds of millions of dollars in fines to motorists.

In July, Orlando officials asked the Florida Supreme Court to reverse an appellate court ruling that fines were illegal for violations that happened before state authorization in 2010.

A three-judge panel of the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach ruled July 6 that Orlando's red-light camera ordinance clashed with state traffic laws.

The effectiveness of the automated cameras remains in dispute as well. In February, University of South Florida researchers said the devices do nothing to make the roads safer, based on the result of studies that began more than five years ago.

USF challenges the methods used in a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which has been widely cited as proof the cameras save lives.

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