Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Transportation

Clearwater, Oldsmar to stick with red-light cameras for now

CLEARWATER — Red-light cameras are under scrutiny in Tallahassee and on the way out in St. Petersburg, but Clearwater leaders say they aren't in any rush to shutter their city's limited program.

However, whether to renew the contract once the current one expires could be another matter.

"Red-light cameras aren't long for the city of Clearwater," predicted City Council member Jay Polglaze.

Mayor George Cretekos also opposes red-light cameras in the city, but three other council members aren't staking out a firm position yet.

When a new council member is sworn in later this month, only two members will remain who voted on the 2011 contract: Bill Jonson voted yes; Cretekos, no.

But Jonson said he isn't ready to make a decision on the cameras' fate. Neither is new incoming council member Hoyt Hamilton.

Council member Doreen Hock-DiPolito said the city's three cameras have improved safety — it might just take some time for residents to see their value, she said. She wants more time to analyze data on crashes and violations before deciding.

No council member advocated ending the contract with RedFlex Traffic Systems Inc. before it expires in July 2015.

A big reason is the financial hit that would follow. The city would owe $27,000 to RedFlex if it cancelled a year early, said Rob Surette, assistant city attorney.

The early-cancellation penalty derives from the installation and operating costs for the cameras. Two of the cameras snap photos of traffic traveling in both directions on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard at Belcher Road. Another camera monitors eastbound traffic at S Fort Harrison Avenue and Chestnut Street.

The cameras began filming violators on July 31, 2012, about a year after the council approved a three-year contract with RedFlex.

RedFlex is currently mired in a lawsuit with a former executive who alleges that the company bribed municipal officers in Florida and a dozen other states. RedFlex and Clearwater officials have said the Arizona company, which also has contracts with Kissimmee and Jacksonville, didn't try to bribe anyone here during the bidding process.

To make certain, in February the city asked RedFlex to provide an audited report of expenses dating back to 2011. Nothing has arrived yet, city auditor Robin Gomez said last week.

St. Petersburg decided earlier this month to end that city's red-light camera program by September at the latest, earlier if it proves to be profitable. And state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has filed a bill to repeal the state law allowing the cameras.

But in north Pinellas County, Clearwater isn't the only city planning to stay the course for now. Oldsmar, the other North Pinellas municipality with a red-light camera program, isn't considering any changes to its four cameras, said Debb Pauley, a city spokeswoman.

Clearwater netted almost $400,000 from tickets in the first year of the program, ending in August 2013. From October 2013 through February this year, the city made another $77,393.

Some have speculated that Hamilton, who served on the Clearwater City Council from 2001 to 2006 and was elected again last week, could be the swing vote on any effort to end red-light cameras in Clearwater. That's fine by him, Hamilton said. One of the employees at his family-owned Palm Pavilion on Clearwater Beach was rear-ended at the Gulf-to-Bay and Belcher intersection — an accident Hamilton said was because of a red-light camera. But he said he wants more time to look at the data.

In September, police reported that crashes due to red-light violations had decreased significantly at the Fort Harrison-Chestnut intersection while rising slightly at the Gulf-to-Bay/Belcher intersection since the cameras were installed.

Rear-end collisions, a frequent rallying cry for red-light opponents, were up at the Fort Harrison light but down at the Gulf-to-Bay intersection.

"If it's strictly for making money, I can't support it," Hamilton said. "You always have to look out for public safety."

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. Follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago.

Comments
Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Free rides on PSTA and HART buses to celebrate Earth Day

Those who use mass transit across the Tampa Bay area can ride for free on Sunday.To celebrate Earth Day, both the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) will be offering free rides on Su...
Published: 04/19/18
She calmly landed the Southwest flight and broke barriers as a fighter pilot

She calmly landed the Southwest flight and broke barriers as a fighter pilot

The pilot’s voice was calm yet focused as her plane descended with 149 people on board."Southwest 1380, we’re single engine," Tammie Jo Shults, a former fighter pilot with the U.S. Navy, said. "We have part of the aircraft missing so we’re going to n...
Published: 04/18/18
Carlton: Thanks, Gov. Scott, for the dreaded trip across Interstate 4

Carlton: Thanks, Gov. Scott, for the dreaded trip across Interstate 4

The other day I had to go to Orlando from Tampa on Interstate 4, which has to be one of the most disliked highways in Florida. And I say this as someone who learned to drive on Miami’s I-95.It turned out to be the same root canal of a trip we’ve come...
Published: 04/18/18
NTSB: Blown Southwest jet engine showed ‘metal fatigue’

NTSB: Blown Southwest jet engine showed ‘metal fatigue’

PHILADELPHIA — A preliminary examination of the blown jet engine of the Southwest Airlines plane that set off a terrifying chain of events and left a businesswoman hanging half outside a shattered window showed evidence of "metal fatigue," according ...
Published: 04/18/18
Group promoting road safety out in force on 56th Street Monday

Group promoting road safety out in force on 56th Street Monday

TEMPLE TERRACE — If all goes as planned on Monday (April 23), at least 100 people will line the sides of one of the most dangerous stretches in Hillsborough County — 56th Street between Sligh Avenue and Busch Boulevard — in an effort to get motorists...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Big dig’s big cost: Pasco tunnel idea carries $550 million price tag

Big dig’s big cost: Pasco tunnel idea carries $550 million price tag

NEW PORT RICHEY — Construction costs to tunnel under U.S. 41 in central Pasco could top a half-billion dollars, four times the projected price of building elevated lanes above the highway’s intersection with State Road 54.The cost estimate, said Comm...
Published: 04/17/18
Dr. Delay: How to find out if you qualify for a speed hump; updates on the Pinellas Bayway

Dr. Delay: How to find out if you qualify for a speed hump; updates on the Pinellas Bayway

I live in St. Pete and would like to know how I could go about getting a speed hump installed on my street. Where do I start?Manuel Reyes, St. PetersburgThe place to start would be by contacting the St. Petersburg Neighborhood Transportation Manager,...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
He got fed up with Miami traffic, so now he commutes with dolphins and pelicans

He got fed up with Miami traffic, so now he commutes with dolphins and pelicans

Parker Lake got sick of the rat race. Sick of working in a cubicle. Sick of commuting on Miami’s mean streets. Sick of being overweight from sitting at a desk or in traffic jams.So Lake quit his unfulfilling job, sold his car and moved to a house on ...
Updated one month ago
A sixth person killed by the high-speed Brightline train in Florida

A sixth person killed by the high-speed Brightline train in Florida

The Brightline train fatally struck a man Sunday, bringing the total killed by the train to six people since it began test runs last year.The Delray Beach Police Department announced on Twitter that a pedestrian was hit Sunday by a northbound Brightl...
Updated one month ago
Dr. Delay: Will the lights at 87th Avenue N and Fourth Street cause extra congestion?

Dr. Delay: Will the lights at 87th Avenue N and Fourth Street cause extra congestion?

Massive new street signals were erected at the intersection of 87th Avenue N. and Fourth Street, just four blocks north from the light-controlled intersection at 83rd Avenue N. At the same time a new WaWa store/gas station is being constructed near 8...
Updated one month ago