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County panel puts stop to red-light camera talk

Updated: September 28, 2011 12:18AM

DuPage County officials don’t think much of the idea of putting up cameras to catch people running red lights and making illegal turns at intersections of county and locally owned roads — if it doesn’t stand to make those locations safer.

Citing an assortment of reasons, the county’s Transportation Committee Tuesday morning rejected the proposal of partnering with municipalities to install the automated enforcers. The plan had been supported by the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference.

Tam Kutzmark, transportation and planning director for the conference, did not take issue with the committee’s assertion that the red-light cameras now in use at the municipal level are enforced variously from one village to the next. She said the group would like to see a pool created for all revenue brought in from intersection citations issued by the overhead monitoring system.

But committee member Jim Healy of Naperville reiterated his stance that the program would have to be focused on making the locations safer. He and others object to the municipalities’ emphasis on using the devices as a way to create income.

“The mayors are really looking to one type of system, and that’s a system I can’t agree with,” Healy said.

He would support the devices if the tickets that result from them are used to reduce accidents, and not “just to prop up the general fund.”

Committee members reasoned that even with a revenue-based version of an ordinance that would split the income more evenly between towns and the county, no more than 25 percent of the fines would end up coming to DuPage.

Carol Stream’s Jim Zay said more aggressive police patrols might be a better investment.

“Ultimately, we should be worrying about safety at intersections,” said Zay, who expressed disappointment that an arrangement apparently couldn’t be worked out. “If one of these saves somebody’s life, do we put a price tag on that?”

Don Puchalski, another member of the committee, said once a program exceeds revenue generation of more than 50 percent of the fine, it’s no longer about safety. He also noted that Geneva, Schaumburg and Bolingbrook all have put up the cameras, only to later take them down.

Naperville uses red-light cameras at the intersections of Route 59 and North Aurora Road, Route 59 and Diehl Road, and Ogden and Aurora avenues in a program that was launched early in 2009.

According to a staff report released last July, more drivers were running red lights at Diehl, while accidents causing injuries, sideswipes and fixed-object collisions had increased at the Ogden-Aurora crossing. In other ways, however, accident and violation rates had improved, most notably at North Aurora Road and Route 59.

City Finance Director Karen DeAngelis said the violations are projected to bring in $1.1 million during fiscal 2011, the same sum they generated in the last fiscal year.

In other business, the transportation committee approved a proposal to erect roadside memorials at locations along county roads where people have died as a result of distracted driving.

Transportation Department Director John Kos said the state amended its DUI laws last year to add distracted driving to the existing roadside memorials program. Since January 2010, state law has forbidden the use of hand-held phones in school and construction zones, and banned text messaging while driving anywhere.

In November 2008, Bolingbrook 5-year-old Adam Miller died after a crash at Plainfield-Naperville Road and Bailey Road in Naperville that was caused by a driver who had looked away to retrieve a lost item moments before he slammed into the rear of the disabled car in which the boy was riding.

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