City taking steps toward red light camera program
Following previous discussions, Wilsonville City Council revisited the mounting problem of drivers running red lights in major intersections at the May 1 City Council work session. The council is considering creating both a red light camera program as well as an adult traffic school for past traffic violators.
At the Feb. 23 work session, councilors first seriously considered the creation of a red light program at the Boones Ferry and Wilsonville Road intersection as well as the Town Center Loop W and Wilsonville Road intersection. Since then, staff has been searching for workable options.
"I've been getting both more letters and calls about the red light running," Councilor Charlotte Lehan said May 1. "I think that it's getting alarmingly dangerous."
"I think that it's a learned behavior that people need to unlearn," Mayor Tim Knapp said. "I don't want our first wakeup call to be a huge, head-on crash."
Wilsonville Director of Finance Susan Cole said that in other cities that have had red light camera programs for extended periods of time, there has been a documented change in driver behavior through a decrease in violations. Cole noted Sherwood in particular, saying that the city's infraction rates have dropped enough that the city reduced its legal staff due to lighter caseloads.
Wilsonville Municipal Judge Fred Weinhouse gave testimony to his experience as the municipal judge for the City of Woodburn, which has a red light program. Weinhouse said that about a third to half of his caseload in Woodburn is the result of the red light program there.
Weinhouse said that while it wouldn't be appropriate for him to weigh in on whether he would like a red light program to be created in Wilsonville since it's under the council's purview, but he did say that if one is implemented there would likely be more cases and it would add work for the City staff and require additional training.
"I would just like to highlight that this is a safety issue, not a 'City Council needs more money' issue," Council President Scott Starr said. "As (Knapp) said earlier, it's only a matter of time before there's a really bad accident that happens because people aren't obeying the law."
Cole said that the next step of moving ahead with the red light program is determining staffing requirements and potential costs, including if the City will need to attain Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) review and approval of the lights. If required, each light could carry a $6,000-$12,000 camera review fee. Cole said that the City will only need ODOT approval at intersections controlled by ODOT, such as the Interstate 5 interchange.
The council came to the consensus that they would like staff to look more thoroughly into the City's options and report back for continued discussion at a later date.
As for the proposed adult traffic school program, Weinhouse encouraged the council to move forward with creating the program to benefit first-time traffic violators or other minor violators at the court's discretion. The traffic school, or Traffic Infraction Deferral Program, would be offered through the City's Municipal Court Violations Bureau to soften certain traffic violation penalties.
"We would like (traffic school) to be a possibility," Weinhouse said. "I've had three, four cases where I've really wanted to offer it."
The council viewed the proposed traffic school favorably and Cole said an ordinance for traffic school could be prepared as soon as June for the council's review and approval.
Contact Wilsonville Spokesman
reporter Claire Green at 503-636-1281