The four traffic camera systems in Oak Ridge have generated more than $6 million in ticket revenues during a roughly five-year period. The city has kept $2.6 million of that, while the camera vendor has collected the other $3.6 million.
The amount of money generated each year has fallen from about $2 million in fiscal year 2010 to roughly $1 million today. That could be at least in part because drivers have grown more accustomed to the cameras.
The automated devices issue $50 citations to drivers who speed or run red lights, and the proceeds are split between the city and camera vendor Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz. So far, the city has collected about 42 percent of the total revenues while Redflex has kept 58 percent.
The city revenues were originally put into a general fund, but starting in Fiscal Year 2011, they were deposited into a special fund that has been used to pay for pedestrian safety projects. That fund now has a cash balance of $778,305.
The five-year contract between the city and Redflex was approved in August 2008, and it expires April 21. On Monday, the Oak Ridge City Council will consider extending the contract for two years, through April 2016, or terminating it. It’s not clear if Council might consider other options, including possibly renegotiating the contract. Camera opponents have questioned the amount of money sent to Redflex, among other things, and even some camera supporters have said the city ought to be able to keep a greater percentage of the ticket revenues.
|Photo Enforcement Camera Proceeds as of Dec. 31, 2013|
|Fiscal Year||City Revenue||Redflex Share||Total|
The controversial cameras are installed at four places: Oak Ridge Turnpike and New York Avenue/Lafayette Drive, Oak Ridge Turnpike between the High School and Civic Center, North Illinois Avenue and Robertsville Road, and Robertsville Road near Willow Brook Elementary School.
For some people, the traffic cameras have been an irritant since they were installed, a detriment to visitors and businesses, an undesirable surveillance tool, and an unwelcome outsourcing of a police function.
But for others, the four systems erected on busy roadways in April 2009 have helped slow down traffic, reduced car crashes, and provided extra revenues to the city, including for community safety projects. Information presented to City Council members before a February work session said there has been an overall decrease in the number of car crashes near the camera systems, and vehicle speeds have dropped near two schools.
|Special Programs Fund Expenditures|
|2014||Police Officer’s Salary (25 percent)||$9,434|
|Pedestrian Improvement—Emory Valley Road at Emory Valley Center||$23,007|
|Jackson Square Upper Parking Lot (Farmer’s Market)||$163,022|
|Total FY 2014 = $195,464|
|2013||Police Officer’s Salary (25 percent)||$18,509|
|Pedestrian Improvement—South Illinois Avenue||$156,210|
|Pedestrian Improvement—Melton Lake Drive||$52,534|
|Transfer for Woodland School Project||$300,000|
|Total FY 2013 = $527,253|
|2012||Police Officer’s Salary (25 percent)||$16,050|
|Rumble Strips – Citywide||$4,882|
|Pavement Marking – Citywide||$25,324|
|Bike Route Signs – Citywide||$13,271|
|Pedestrian Improvement—South Illinois Avenue||$93,462|
|Total FY 2012 = $152,989|
It’s not clear how the current council will vote on Monday. The council now includes three members—Trina Baughn, Anne Garcia Garland, and Chuck Hope—who weren’t city legislators when the Redflex contract was approved in a 4-3 vote in 2008.
Current Council members who supported the original contract in 2008 were Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan, Mayor Pro Tem Jane Miller, and Council member Charlie Hensley, as well as former member Tom Hayes. Council member David Mosby voted against it, and so did former members Willie Golden and Ellen Smith.
If Council ends the camera program, members have been asked to consider installing a traffic signal on Oak Ridge Turnpike at Oak Ridge High School, where vehicle speeds have dropped by as much as roughly 25 percent since the cameras became operational five years ago. The stoplight could cost between $150,000 to $200,000, and it would have to be approved by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
More than half of the speeding violations last year—or about 15,000 of the roughly 24,000 citations—were at the camera systems on Oak Ridge Turnpike at the high school.
City data shows that the cameras monitored about 18.5 million vehicles in 2013, and they issued 1,449 red-light tickets and 23,889 speeding citations. Most of those were issued to non-residents, including 68 percent of the red-light citations and 84 percent of the speeding violations.