Questions over yellow lights slowed down the state’s traffic camera program but it didn’t stop it.
The state Department of Transportation announced Wednesday it has restarted its red-light camera program for 63 traffic lights in 21 towns after a review period over the past few weeks.
Two local municipalities, Hamilton Township in Atlantic County and Middle Township in Cape May County, continue to monitor the program in hopes of being included in the next round in two years.
The state has 85 total lights with cameras in 25 towns, but the state asked for a review for the 63 lights last month when it realized the state legislation for the program had a formula for the length of a yellow light that differed from federal standards.
After engineers reviewed each light it was determined they were all in compliance with the federal regulations, the department said. If the study had shown a signal did not display a yellow light long enough it would have been removed from the program.
The state is in the middle of a five-year pilot program for the cameras that will end in 2014. At that time the state can allow additional towns to join.
No municipalities in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland or southern Ocean counties are using red-light cameras, but Hamilton Township and Middle Township have applied to be considered for the next round of state approvals.
The possible intersections include:
* Routes 9 and 47 in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township.
* Route 9 and Stone Harbor Boulevard in the Cape May Court House section of Middle Township.
* Wrangleboro Road and Route 322 in Hamilton Township.
* Wrangleboro Road and the Atlantic City Expressway entrance in Hamilton Township.
DOT spokesman Tim Greeley said there is no further plan to expand the authorized municipalities at this time, and the local towns’ applications remain on file.
Middle Township Mayor Dan Lockwood said he keeps himself updated on all the developments.
“I’m not just excited over it — I’m advocating for it regularly whenever I talk to people from the state,” he said. “I say to them, ‘We need to get this moving. Middle Township needs to have this.’”
Lockwood said the township’s Police Department spent a lot of time working on its policies to make sure they will be in compliance and will avoid problems that other towns in other parts of the country have faced. For example, an officer will review every infraction and decide if a summons should be issued. Many towns have had summonses overturned when motorists appealed in court because summonses were not monitored.
Lockwood said the cameras are particularly important for the township, which is the gateway for the southern portion of the county. Motorists use roads such as Routes 9 and 47 to access shore towns, and Lockwood hopes the cameras will cut down on accidents and free up police for other matters.
The decision to install red-light cameras was debated in Hamilton Township, where the Township Committee approved the move in a 3-2 vote.
Hamilton Mayor Roger Silva, who opposed to the program, said he was uncomfortable with the township collecting revenue from its own residents and tourists. Silva said he follows the developments but is not heavily involved since any implementation is at least two years away.
Local officials hope the cameras will decrease the number of side-impact crashes, which are the most serious. Studies have shown the red-light cameras increase the amount of rear-end accidents because drivers tend to stop short to avoid a violation.
Hamilton and Middle have hired the firm American Traffic Solutions from Scottsdale, Ariz., to manage the system if it’s approved. The company would be paid through the money from the tickets. The townships would not pay for the program.
ATS operates the cameras for 18 current municipalities and has contracts with 24 more that have applied to the state.
ATS spokesman Charles Territo said in a statement the company makes provisions to ensure the program is in compliance with federal and state standards.
Territo said the program has been successful and resulted in a drop in violations and accidents.
“The decision to recertify the cameras will ensure that these important safety programs will continue,” he said. “It’s our hope that the (state) will now take steps to give approval to the dozens of cities and towns currently seeking authority to launch red-light safety camera programs of their own.”
Contact Joel Landau:
Follow Joel Landau on Twitter @landaupressofac