Pawtucket moving toward installing red light cameras

Pawtucket moving toward installing red light cameras

PAWTUCKET – Officials are again contemplating a potential plan to install cameras on traffic signals to catch and ticket motorists running red lights.

The Pawtucket Purchasing Board, at its Jan. 25 meeting, tentatively agreed to award a contract to Gatso USA to operate the red light camera program at various intersections, as well as school speed zone cameras at certain schools, said Lauren Greene, spokeswoman for Mayor Donald Grebien. A final contract is still pending before the board.

“We will be examining the appropriate locations for school speed zone cameras and red light cameras at the most dangerous intersections,” she said. “The comprehensive school traffic safety analysis that the city completed over the last two years identified a number of schools around which high speeds is a major safety concern.”

According to Greene, “safety and compliance with the city’s traffic safety laws is an ongoing concern and these cameras are a cost-effective, modern best practice in this area.”

Once the city’s traffic engineering and police divisions have completed the analysis with the vendor on the most appropriate locations, there will be public notice and information around the placement of cameras, as well as appropriate signage and notice, said Greene.

“That is assuming that the analysis by the city’s team and the vendor concludes that there are appropriate locations,” she said. “Should none be identified, there will be no implementation. However, with a third party study of traffic safety around schools already having identified this issue as a significant concern, it is likely there will be locations that make sense.”

The potential initiative is a next step in the ongoing work to make local school zones and the community at large safer, said Greene.

City Council President David Moran said last Wednesday, Feb. 7, that he and others believe the decision on red light cameras should rest on all elected leaders. He and the council sent a letter to Grebien’s administration asking for details on the proposal, including how much the city will spend, how the council will be involved, and what precipitated the return of the proposal five years after it was last considered.

Moran learned of the proposal from Councilor Mark Wildenhain, who informed him of the results of the Purchasing Board decision.

Greene said the first phase of the proposal is an analysis phase, to be followed by implementation. The cost factor comes in to play with the implementation of the cameras, she said, “but the model is cost neutral and is not based on new revenues being used.”

Councilor Albert Vitali Jr. said at the Feb. 7 council meeting that he recalled local police being against the implementation of the cameras due to how it might hamper their ability to apprehend criminals. Many arrests are made during routine traffic stops, he said, and not having officers stationed in certain areas might hurt that effort.

New Chief of Police Tina Goncalves did not respond to a request for comment on the proposal this week.

Back in 2012, former City Council member Chris O’Neill suggested red light cameras as both a way to reduce the high number of accidents at Pawtucket’s major intersections and to potentially provide the city with a new source of revenue.

Vitali said last week that he hopes the council will get a presentation on the proposal to make sure everyone’s on board with it, and that it won’t be “shoved down our throat.” Grebien’s administration owes council members an explanation on the plan so they can explain to their constituents what it’s all about, said Vitali.

Councilor Tim Rudd, a Providence police officer, noted that speed cameras put up in areas of Providence are nailing drivers with big fines for being one mile an hour over the speed limit in a school zone. He warned that such cameras give police “zero discretion” on enforcement, saying he too wants input from local police on the latest proposal.

Few communities other than Providence utilize such devices in traffic enforcement efforts, he said.

Wildenhain said the proposal will go back before the Purchasing Board for approval once a final dollar amount is finalized.

Councilor Terry Mercer said he wants to know whether any city ordinances would need to be amended to allow the red light cameras. He also asked whether police have done any studies on traffic, safety and the benefits of spending money on traffic cameras.

Wildenhain again repeated his call for speed signs to be installed in the area of city schools, saying he’s been asking for them for the past three years. He said school officials are “willing to take up the torch,” informing him that they’re ready to spend $100,000 to get the signs. The city has now spent more on studies related to the signs than the signs would actually cost, he said.