Spokane will double its battery of cameras to catch speeders near area elementary schools next year.
The City Council voted 6-1 Monday night to approve a resolution adding the additional automated cameras at Willard and Ridgeview elementary schools in 2018, adding to the devices that have been in operation near Finch and Longfellow elementaries. The resolution also limits use of the money collected in fines to pay for sidewalk and crosswalk improvements, or the hiring of additional traffic safety officers in the Spokane Police Department.
A majority of lawmakers said the cameras were needed to slow speeders near schools where a traffic study – authored by American Traffic Solutions, the firm in charge of installing and maintaining the cameras – showed between 59 percent and 91 percent of drivers were traveling at least 26 mph in school speed zones, where the limit is 20 as children cross major arterials to get to class.
“We don’t guess how fast people are going,” said City Councilwoman Candace Mumm. “We wish they wouldn’t speed when it’s 20 mph.”
City Councilman Mike Fagan, who voted against establishing the school zone program in July 2015 but later said they served as a deterrent, was the lone vote against installing the two new cameras. Fagan said he believed safer crossings at those locations were possible with detours and signage, noting the camera near Willard Elementary will be located three blocks from the entrance to the school on Monroe Street.
“I will be clear on this – this program is a revenue-generating program before it is a safety program,” Fagan said. The councilman said he would prefer the city to wait and further evaluate the need for the cameras before expanding them in areas he said were chosen specifically to generate income.
City Councilwoman Karen Stratton said the cameras at Finch Elementary, near her home and Audobon Park, slowed traffic briefly, but additional safety measures were needed.
“If we can save one kid from serious injuries, or a driver from having to live with hitting a child, then this is worth it,” Stratton said. “I’ve been in this neighborhood for 20-some years, and traffic is finally starting to slow down. But people don’t get it.”
Additional crosswalks and signs on Northwest Boulevard will be built next summer with dollars collected in fines from the city’s 15 red-light photo cameras, installed at 10 downtown intersections. City laws currently limit the installation of automated cameras to catch speeders or those rolling through red lights in school zones and at the crossings of two arterial roads.
City officials and the Spokane Police Department reported last week that citations at the cameras near Finch and Longfellow elementary schools, in operation since January 2016, are down so far this year compared to last year’s pace.