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No deal yet to renew Tampa's red-light camera program

TAMPA — Top aides to Mayor Bob Buckhorn have met with three of the four City Council members who voted against renewing the city's red-light camera program, but none has committed to switching sides.

At least not yet.

City chief financial officer Sonya Little, chief of staff Dennis Rogero and transportation manager Jean Duncan so far have talked with council Chairman Charlie Miranda, Mary Mulhern and Frank Reddick. They are scheduled to sit down with the fourth "no" vote, Yvonne Yolie Capin, on Wednesday.

On Thursday, administration officials are expected to address the council in the hope that one or more of the four will change a no to a yes. That would extend the city's contract with American Traffic Solutions of Tempe, Ariz., for two years beyond its expiration on Sunday.

When the council voted 4-3 not to renew the contract on March 20, all seven council members agreed that the camera program had improved safety at the 21 intersections where they are deployed. But the four balked at reapproving the program because Buckhorn's staff had not provided information indicating that any of the camera revenues had been spent on traffic safety projects near the intersections.

"That's what we've asked for all along," said Capin, one of three votes against creating the program in 2011 because there was no commitment to using camera revenue to improve roads or sidewalks. "It is very important to me that the public know that it's being spent for public safety."

During briefings since the most recent vote, council members said Buckhorn's staff reviewed spending on transportation projects near intersections monitored by the cameras.

In the past three years, according to the administration's breakdown, a total of $28.1 million has been spent on transportation improvements near intersections with the cameras. Of that, $16.2 million has gone to stormwater drainage, road and landscaping work in the Drew Park area. Other big projects included $4.6 million to widen 40th Street from Hills­borough to Hanna avenues and nearly $2.3 million for road and intersection improvements at Dale Mabry Highway and Kennedy Boulevard.

This year, transportation spending near camera-monitored intersections totals nearly $3.7 million. An additional $19.5 million in future projects has been identified, though the administration acknowledges that $8.4 million of that work has not been funded or put in the city's capital improvement plan.

Council members also noted that money for the 24 projects mainly has come from gas tax revenues, transportation impact fees or the Florida Department of Transportation — not the city's general fund, which is where the city deposited its $1.6 million in red-light camera revenue last year.

"They proved my point that none of the red-light funds have been used for intersections," Reddick said.

Moreover, Mulhern said, the administration's numbers didn't show her that spending on transportation safety projects has increased since the cameras were put in place.

Reddick said city staffers told him that they will look at using a certain percentage of red-light camera funds for transportation work. Council members had discussed 25 percent as a threshold, but Reddick said he would be happy with 10 to 15 percent.

"If they present that, they will have met my concerns, and I'll be supporting it," Reddick said. Miranda, likewise, said he is open to hearing the administration make its case again.

Because the staff hasn't met with every council member yet, Little said the discussion is still fluid and it's too early to say what recommendations the administration might make Thursday.

While the general fund isn't covering the kinds of hard project costs the council has focused on, Little said that it does support operations of the transportation division that have an effect on intersection safety.

Still, council members said, the city could do more. Mulhern noted that there are projects on the administration's list with costs in the $100,000 range. One that's not currently funded would put bicycle lanes and mid-block crossing treatments along 30th Street between Busch Boulevard and Fowler Avenue.

"You could do some significant improvements with that" money, she said.

No deal yet to renew Tampa's red-light camera program 03/31/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 12:05am]
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