By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton drivers will need to be on the look out for more red-light cameras at intersections throughout the city.
Politicians agreed to add six more cameras with half of them scheduled to be installed on the Mountain.
“I’m really proud of the success of the program,” said Mountain councillor Tom Jackson. “There was some reluctance to go down this path 10 to 12 years ago. (But) it’s demonstrated to provide safety.”
The six new locations will be at Mohawk Road East and Upper Wentworth Street, Mohawk Road East and Upper Wellington Street, Fennell Avenue East and Upper Gage Avenue, Main Street East and Wellington Street South, King Street East and Lawrence Road and King Street West and Macklin Street North.
With the new red-light cameras there will be seven intersections on the Mountain that will have the equipment to monitor drivers. Ward 1 will have a total of four red-light cameras, while Ward 3 will have three intersections covered by the cameras. Upper Stoney Creek will have one red-light camera at Mud Street and Paramount Drive.
The new cameras will bring the city’s total to 19. In 2011 council approved expanding the program by eight camera locations. There are 13 camera sites currently being monitored by the city at a cost of about $1.3 million. The new cameras will collect an extra $500,000 in revenue, say city staff. The city already takes in $1.5 million in revenue annually.
But earlier this spring, city solicitor Janice Atwood-Petkovski revealed in a report that the red-light camera revenues had been $5 million last year. Geoff Lupton, director of energy, fleet and traffic, didn’t know the reason between the revenue discrepancies. But he confirmed the city receives $1.5 million in net revenue annually. That figure will increase to $2 million next year when the new cameras are installed.
The city has about $7.9 million in its dedicated traffic safety reserve account from the red-light cameras.
Last year there were 15,500 red-light camera charges filed under the Provincial Offences Act. City staff estimate with six more cameras operating, there will be about 7,200 additional charges filed each year. That’s a jump from 2011 when 9,729 people were charged, and 2013 when 13,500 people were charged for running a red light. If convicted, drivers face a $325 fine for running a red light.
The city introduced the red-light cameras in November 2000 under a six-city pilot program.
“This is paying for itself and providing a surplus of dollars,” saidJackson.
He said when the red-light camera was introduced last year at Upper Gage and Mohawk, the cameras provided a sense of stability for area residents. The city also introduced zebra crosswalks and pedestrian countdown lights for residents at particular mountain intersections to help residents.
Jacksonis looking forward to the cameras at another high accident intersection Fennell Avenue East and Upper Gage Avenue, to assist local residents in that area.
“(The cameras) have been overwhelmingly well received,” he said. “Pedestrians should come first.”
Ward 7 councillor Scott Duvall applauded the installation of more red-light cameras on the mountain. He said the Upper Gage and Mohawk intersection has a large number of residents, including seniors who cross the intersection.
“It’s well support in the community,” he said. “There are complaints, but it is only if you get caught. Safety is for everybody. I don’t believe it’s a cash cow.”
Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie, who will have five intersections with red-light cameras in his area, also praised the program for putting pedestrians first.
“This is a pro-active approach,” said McHattie. “Overall city staff’s approach to traffic safety has changed. People are really noticing.”
Councillors also agreed to also spend $545,000 to hire a person, who will help to oversee a new public safety program that will include creating school zone safety programs, monitor speed limits, establishing zebra cross walks.
Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson opposed the motion, arguing the city doesn’t need more employees on projects it already operates.
“Every time we get a pot of money we add staff,” he said.
Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead wanted more red-light cameras in his ward. He suggestedUpper Paradiseand Mohawk has experienced a high volume of accidents over the years and the traffic numbers more than justify installing the cameras. Brantdale Avenue and Upper James, which straddles wards 7 and 8, is the only intersection within Ward 8 that has a red-light camera.
“Has it been ignored?” he asked.
Gerry Davis, general manager of public works, assured councillors the basis for installing red-light cameras at specific intersections is due to the high volume of T-bone accidents.
“It is statistically driven,” he said.
The locations where red-light cameras already exist are: Stone Church Road East and Upper Wentworth Street; Paramount Drive and Mud Street West, Cannon Street West and Hess Street North; Burlington Street East and Gage Avenue North, Dundurn Street North and King Street West, Dundurn Street South and Main Street West; Bay Street South and Main Street West; Kenilworth Avenue North and Cannon Street East; Main Street East and Sanford Avenue South; Brantdale Avenue and Upper James Street, and Mohawk Road East and Upper Gage Avenue.
Hamiltonhas a contract with a private company to operate the cameras until the end of 2016.