NEW PORT RICHEY — The city won't be pulling the plug on its red light camera program anytime soon.
The City Council learned last week that it's locked into a contract paying Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions $40,750-a-month until 2016, with no option to terminate early.
It came as a surprise to Deputy Mayor Bill Phillips who wanted a discussion about whether it would be in the city's interest to end the program. Phillips also expressed frustration that last year the council passed a budget expecting $1.15-million in revenue from the cameras, but projections are for only $580,500. In next year's proposed budget, the projection is $560,000.
"That over-projection stepped up and hit us pretty hard," Phillips said.
Meanwhile, a new study provides an analysis of crashes within 250 feet of the intersections where New Port Richey has red light cameras, as well as intersections on U.S. 19 at Ridge Road and Grand Boulevard, where Port Richey operates cameras. The study found there were 27 crashes at the intersections during the six months prior to cameras being installed and 33 crashes in the six months after.
But in analyzing the police narratives from each crash, it's clear many were unrelated to the traffic signal. That led to a conclusion that signal-related crashes at the intersections actually went down slightly, said Pasco Traffic Operations Manager Bob Reck.
County Commissioner Jack Mariano's read on the study was that the cameras are not improving safety, but he asked for another study to look at a longer time frame.
New Port Richey City Council member Jeff Starkey agreed. "If they are not reducing accidents they shouldn't be there just to generate revenue," he said.