6/11/2007Texas DOT to Install Federally Funded Highway Speed Cameras
Despite the opposition of the state legislature, the Texas Department of Transportation proposes a federally funded speed camera test.
Despite the near-unanimous opposition in the state legislature to the use of speed cameras, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is moving forward on a proposal to deploy photo radar on state highways using federal gas tax funds. Legislation awaiting Governor Rick Perry's signature prohibited only municipalities -- like Marble Falls and Rhome -- from installing automated speeding ticket systems. It was silent on the possibility of a state-run system (read legislation).
TxDOT began searching in April for a vendor that, using federal funds, would allow the agency "to assess and evaluate all elements of an automated speed notification system." Once selected, the vendor would operate an average time speed camera test for at least six months on Interstate 10 near El Paso and State Highway 6 near College Station.
Time-distance ticketing systems use multiple cameras spaced far apart on a freeway. Each car is photographed once as it enters the first section of road. Miles later a second photograph is taken that allows the vehicle's average speed to be calculated from the time it took to travel between the two locations. In use in Britain under the trade name SPECS, these cameras are commonly referred to as "yellow vultures" and are among the most lucrative in the country.
In its request for proposals, TxDOT cited success of speed cameras in the UK and Washington, DC. The UK government generated £120 million (US $240 million) in revenue in 2003 while the Washington, DC red light and speed camera program has issued $217 million in tickets since 1999. TxDOT's vendor will send notices -- warnings at first -- to motorists driving just 5 MPH over the limit with an accuracy level of +/- 2 MPH, meaning those driving just 3 MPH over the limit could receive a photograph and letter in the mail.
The River Cities Daily Tribune, which first reported the story last week, noted that TxDOT also ordered Marble Falls to remove its speed camera van from state highways in April citing safety concerns.
"How hypocritical is that?" Marble Falls Mayor Raymond Whitman told the Daily Tribune. "I have a bit of a problem with it, not because they're using the camera, but because if it's unsafe for us to use, how can it be safe for the state to do it?"
A full copy of the TxDOT speed camera request for proposals is available in a 219k PDF file at the source link below.