Shrewsbury Still Mulling Prospect of Red Light Cams
Borough has reportedly put together a bid package for red light cameras to be installed at two intersections.
As state officials wrangle over the use of red-light cameras at the municipal level, Shrewsbury has continued discussions of its own over acquiring two of the controversial cameras, even taking the step of preparing the work for bid prior to getting council approval.
Councilman Tom Menapace, who has been in correspondence with American Traffic Solutions, an Arizona-based red-light camera firm, confirmed that the borough has drawn up bid specs but that no final determination has been made on whether to pursue the ticketing tech.
“I think we still want to talk it over as a group,” he said during a recent telephone interview. “The bid specs were drawn up but we haven’t taken any steps forward. Obviously we’re aware of all of the questions that came up on the timing of the yellow lights and that kind of thing and obviously we’re looking into it.”
'These cameras are about money, not safety'
The issue of traffic light timing led to a recent near-statewide suspension – and subsequent reactivation – of red light camera use by Gov. Chris Christie as the New Jersey Department of Transportation found that several towns had given out tickets while using incorrect yellow-light timing. In the offending cases, yellow lights turned to red in less time than was mandated by state law.
Leading the charge in the fight against red-light cameras at the state level has been Red Bank resident Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-13, who claims he, along with a hired traffic engineer, has discovered recent flaws in light timing, still, following the reactivation of the cameras. O’Scanlon has called for an end to the use of the cameras, saying the lights are used only to generate revenue, not promote safety as many local officials claim.
O’Scanlon also has charged that the state’s pilot red-light camera program, approved in 2009, is not accepting new towns. By law, only 25 towns throughout the state are permitted to operate the cameras.
“We have proven that there are major flaws with this program and that these cameras are about money, not safety,” O’Scanlon said in a release. “At this point any elected official continuing to seek admittance to this program is uninformed at best, and brazenly seeking to steal money from motorists at worst.”
O’Scanlon also has called for the DOT to discontinue approving permits for additional cameras in those towns as part of the pilot program.
'No perfect solution'
Despite calls to end the light program over potential abuses and charges that it leaves law enforcement in the hands of private companies — in most cases, towns pay to lease red-light cameras and then are given a cut of the ticketing profits while private companies like American Traffic Solutions pocket the rest — Menapace said his interest comes purely from an interest in public safety.
Shrewsbury is a small town with a population of just more than 3,000 people, but each day tens of thousands of cars — the number has been estimated by public officials at between 30,000 and 50,000 — drive through the town along Route 35. The proposed location for the two cameras Shrewsbury seeks is at its two busiest intersections: Route 35 and Sycamore Avenue and Route 35 and Shrewsbury Avenue.
Asked why Shrewsbury couldn’t better enforce traffic laws at these two intersections with personnel, Menapace said the town simply doesn’t have the manpower or resources to do so. On an average police patrol shift, Menapace said there are three available officers. To dedicate one to an intersection or use two to cover both intersections would just be “impractical.”
Still, Menapace echoed, no decision has been concluded. He said he’s seen reports that red-light cameras prevent accidents — some of these studies come from organizations funded by American Traffic Solutions — as well as reports that red-light cameras actually increase rear-end accidents.
It’s something to consider, he said.
“That’s something we’re going to have to discuss as a council,” he said. “There’s a lot of information on both sides, and I’ve heard all those things. There’s no perfect solution. I think this is an attempt to make people go slower.”
Editor's note: Please click here to read a related story on the number of accidents at the targeted intersections.