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Texas Postpones Freeway Speed Cameras as New Laws Take Effect
New photo enforcement restrictions convince Texas Department of Transportation to back off from freeway speed camera proposal.

TxDOT letter
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) announced yesterday that it was backing down on its plan to install speed cameras on state freeways in light of new laws restricting photo enforcement that take effect today. In a letter to State Representative Vicki Truitt (R-Southlake), Texas Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson agreed to delay his freeway ticketing proposal for twenty-one months.

"I have decided my interest in the technology is best explored through the hearing process conducted by the legislature," Williamson wrote. "Accordingly, I have asked staff to lay the Request for Proposal on the shelf until June 2009."

Williamson had angered Truitt and at least twenty-six other legislators who signed a letter complaining that TxDOT's proposal to use photo radar was made public after the legislature had adjourned having just enacted a law banning municipalities from using speed cameras (read original proposal). Williamson pointed to the benefit of using the technology to raise money to supplement the TxDOT budget and dismissed objections to photo ticketing as based in nothing but ignorance.

"I watched carefully the hearings on red light cameras and speed cameras conducted by the legislature this past session," Williamson wrote. "While listening to the give-and-take between sides during the hearings, it occurred to me that positions were fervently held, though without much valid research available to support them."

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Carona (R-Dallas), sponsor of one of the new camera limitation laws, accused Williamson of having an "arrogant" attitude toward lawmakers in a February hearing (view hearing video). A number of studies by the Virginia Department of Transportation and The Washington Post newspaper had come to conclusions contrary to Williamson's interest (view studies).

The legislature had set today as the date when new restrictions on red light cameras would take effect. This caused around sixty cities to scramble to sign new contracts or expand existing ones before the deadline so that they could use contingent fee contracts and avoid conducting studies of engineering alternatives before installing the ticketing devices. Most importantly, the state will now take half of the profit from citations that can no longer be greater than $75.

Motorists will also be protected against late-payment fees for lost mail as the city must now provide notice using certified mail. Cities must also spring for postage and provide pre-addressed envelopes for payment. Anyone contesting a citation can now request a trial by a jury of his peers and demand that the individual responsible for camera maintenance testify in court about the upkeep and accuracy of the ticketing machine. No city may use red light cameras after September 2009, unless the legislature sees proof that the devices have had a positive effect and enacts a new authorization law.

Soon after Governor Rick Perry (R) agreed to these restrictions, a number of cities dropped their interest in automated ticketing, including Los Fresnos, Kerrville, Alamo Heights, and Schertz.

The full text of the letter is available in a 375k PDF file at the source link below. If you like our articles, be sure to sign up for free email updates or our RSS feed.

Source: PDF File Letter to Representative Vicki Truitt (Texas Department of Transportation, 8/29/2007)

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