Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Red light cameras in Tigard? It could happen

City mulls installing cameras to catch violators at major intersections.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Running red lights could soon become a dicier proposition at some Tigard intersections. The city is considering installing its first red light cameras in what Mayor John L. Cook says would be an effort to increase traffic safety.The city of Tigard is considering putting up its first red light cameras at major intersections.

Which intersections would be in line for cameras, which are designed to record footage of vehicles illegally running through intersections and could be used as cause to issue traffic citations, is yet to be determined. So is the exact number of new city employees, both in the Tigard Police Department and in the Tigard Municipal Court, that would be required to handle the additions.

Police Cmdr. Jamey McDonald made a presentation to the Tigard City Council on Tuesday outlining what a red light camera program might look like. In collaboration with Redflex Traffic Systems, a vendor that supplies the red light cameras used by neighboring cities like Beaverton, Sherwood and Tualatin, the department sketched out a pilot program in which cameras would be placed at four intersections along Highway 99W.

“In short, what we found is it would be viable should we choose to move forward with a program,” McDonald told the council.

Study: Program would bolster revenue

The intersections studied — at Southwest Hall Boulevard, Walnut Street and Place, Gaarde and McDonald streets, and Durham Road — would not necessarily be where McDonald would recommend an initial batch of cameras, he said.

However, the results of the study suggest that such a program could result in both an increase in traffic safety at the busy intersections and a boost to the city of Tigard's revenue. With the intersections in the study, according to McDonald's report, the program would provide about $414,000 in annual net revenue to the city — with 11,000 more citations issued each year — and require five new court clerks and one additional police officer, with their costs to the city being comfortably outweighed by the receipts from the program.

Tigard Mayor John L. Cook has been an advocate of installing red light cameras in Tigard. But he stressed Tuesday that his interest in doing so isn't because of fiscal reasons.

“I know that these show a financial gain to the city,” he said. “I don't want to pass something because it shows a financial gain. I sure don't want to do it if it shows a financial loss, but to me, it's back to … the safety of our citizens, the safety of our officers. … I'm not going to do it just because it makes the city a lot of money — and I know some people go into it that way, or people will say that that's why we're going into it. I'll state right up front, that's not why we're bringing this forward.”

Safety is also McDonald's priority, the police commander said.

“When I started this project, I was indifferent to it. As I did more research and I read the results that had come back from jurisdictions that have it, I realized that there is an improvement in traffic safety. All of our surrounding jurisdictions have seen a reduction in injury crashes at every intersection they have these at,” McDonald said, noting that cameras also take pressure off of officers to camp out at problematic intersections and put themselves at risk by attempting to make traffic stops there.

He concluded, “I've warmed up to it since I started the project — yes, that is absolutely fair to say.”

Councilors split on initial reactions

While Cook and Council President Jason Snider strongly favored the red light camera program at Tuesday's work session, other councilors were reluctant.

Councilor Marc Woodard said there is “too much technology, too much inhuman interaction” involved with red light cameras for him to be enthusiastic about the idea.

“One of the reasons I got on City Council, I was tired of big government squashing the little guy,” Woodard said. The red light camera program, he added, “just feels like more regulation and control, and I've always been opposed to that.”

Councilors John Goodhouse and Marland Henderson offered measured criticism. Henderson warned that residents may not respond favorably to Tigard installing red light cameras, while Goodhouse said he is concerned about putting them in for the wrong reasons.

“When you're making a profit off of that, how much of that money weighs into maybe sometimes going past the part of safety and going into more of the profit area?” Goodhouse asked rhetorically.

But Tigard has options in how it could choose to implement and operate a red light camera program, Snider argued. It could instruct the police to have a “lean” enforcement model, he suggested — for example, not issuing citations to any drivers turning right on a red light based on camera footage.

Snider was adamant that red light cameras are needed to make Tigard's intersections safer.

“I think from the safety perspective, we've gotta do it,” he said.

While it did not make any immediate decisions on whether to commit to a red light camera program, the council agreed to instruct the police department to continue studying the potential, identifying intersections where cameras should be placed and coming up with a public engagement strategy.

No citizen vote or survey showing public approval is needed before red light cameras are installed, Cook said. However, police in cities with a red light camera program are required by state law to make reports every two years to the Oregon Legislature on how the cameras are working and how they are perceived by the public.

PMG FILE PHOTO - This red light camera monitors the intersection of Southwest Fourth and Jefferson streets in downtown Portland, in a 2007 file photo.

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow us on Twitter
Visit Us on Facebook