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Tampa moves ahead on red-light cameras at 10 intersections

TAMPA — Following the lead of other Florida cities, Tampa is pushing ahead with plans to install red-light cameras at 10 accident-plagued intersections.

The city will solicit bids within a few weeks from companies to install and operate the cameras at intersections with high accident rates, officials said Tuesday. Police administrators are studying the plan and will work to develop a final list of locations.

The cameras should be installed by fall and be operational a month to two later, following a warning period.

Signs will let drivers know when they're approaching an intersection with cameras.

"We will be putting them in place across our community," assistant police Chief John Bennett said.

The City Council will have to approve the contract. Council member John Dingfelder said he needs to learn more about the program before voting on a contract.

"Whenever you're talking about cameras out in the public right-of-way, there are possibilities of some constitutional issues," he said. "I want to research it and talk to our attorneys and make sure we're not stepping on any shaky ground."

Scores of other Florida cities and counties have added red-light cameras recent years, looking to curb accidents and boost revenue.

Hillsborough County just finished installing cameras at 10 problem intersections. Cameras also are in place in Port Richey, Temple Terrace and Lakeland.

Libertarian groups have bemoaned the technology as intrusive and a backdoor attempt by governments to fill their coffers.

Temple Terrace, which is considering expanding the cameras from two to five intersections, has amassed more than $1.4 million in fines since October 2008. Most of those citations have involved right-on-red violations. Hillsborough County, which finished installing the cameras last month, expects to make about $2.4 million a year from the technology.

Bennett said he has heard the criticisms before, but notes cities that have deployed the cameras have seen marked declines in deadly "T-bone" crashes at intersections, which accounted for 10 percent of Tampa's fatal accidents in 2009.

No decision has been made as to how much a violation would cost.

Typically, first- and second-time offenders are fined $125. Although a vendor would operate the equipment, city police officers would review footage from the cameras to determine whether a citation should be issued.

The company would likely be paid a portion of the proceeds from fines.

Violation notices are sent to the owners of the vehicles, not necessarily the driver of the vehicle. Motorists who object to getting a notice may appeal to traffic court judge.

"The evidence is usually pretty compelling," Bennett said. "But we will implement a reasonable standard before issuing a notice."

Times staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this report.

Tampa moves ahead on red-light cameras at 10 intersections 01/19/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 10:57pm]
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