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Iowa City council gives green light to traffic cameras

Gregg Hennigan, CR Gazette –


IOWA CITY – A split City Council signaled Tuesday night it was ready to move forward with red-light cameras in Iowa City.

The council voted 4-3 on the first of three considerations of an ordinance that would allow the cameras to be installed. If the ordinance is adopted, the city would then negotiate a contract with a vendor, and that too would have to be approved by the council.

Council members Terry Dickens, Rick Dobyns, Susan Mims and Mayor Matt Hayek voted in support of the cameras. Michelle Payne, Connie Champion and Jim Throgmorton were opposed.

“If it changes the behavior of the way people drive, if it saves one life, it’s worth it to me,” Dickens said.

But Champion questioned whether traffic-enforcement cameras were needed. City staffers have identified 10 intersections for the cameras, and from 2001-10, there were 163 crashes at them caused by red-light violations, resulting in 26 minor injuries and six major injuries.

“I think it would be easier to get struck by lightning than get killed in these intersections,” Champion said.

The council did not discuss speed cameras even though that’s part of the technology Police Chief Sam Hargadine wants to implement.

There are new cameras that use speed and red-light technology simultaneously to identify vehicles that are going to run lights and then preemptively prevent cross traffic from getting a green light.

These cameras would let violators clear an intersection, therefore helping to prevent collisions with pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

Hargadine said the council could choose not to enforce speeding violations.

About 10 residents spoke on the issue, and like the council they were split.

Susan Enzle lives in Iowa City and works in Cedar Rapids. She said the speed cameras on Interstate 380 in Cedar Rapids have slowed people down.

Sean Adams-Hiett of Iowa City was concerned installing traffic-enforcement cameras would be a slippery slope.

“At what point does it become too invasive in our lives having cameras watching us,” he said.

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