Ready, set, mount the red-light cameras.
The city of Kent will add 11 red-light cameras next year at six major intersections in an effort to catch drivers who run the lights and raise revenue to purchase body cameras for police officers.
The City Council’s Operations Committee voted 3-0 on Nov. 20 to approve Kent’s first red-light cameras that could bring in an estimated $1 million to $2 million per year in revenue. The committee also approved a five-year contract with Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS) Inc., for as much as $651,000 per year for camera installation and maintenance along with the processing and mailing of infractions.
“We’ve had ongoing complaints (about red-light runners), and the collision data is why we are doing this,” Police Chief Rafael Padilla said at the committee meeting. “We did a feasibility study to identify the intersections with the higher rate of collisions.”
Drivers will be fined $124 for running a red light. Padilla estimated the system to be operating in about six to eight months.
Crews will install cameras at the following intersections and approaches, primarily based on where the most collisions have occurred:
• 104th Avenue SE and SE 240th Street: eastbound and westbound
• 104th Avenue SE and SE 256th Street: northbound and eastbound
• 84th Avenue South and S 212th Street: northbound and southbound
• Central Avenue North and East James Street: northbound and eastbound
• Central Avenue North and East Smith Street: northbound and southbound
• Kent Des Moines Road and Pacific Highway South: eastbound
ATS will charge $4,750 per camera per month, with an additional $1,000 per month charge for an extra camera if the intersection is too large for the standard camera, said Sgt. Todd Durham, who is overseeing the project, in an email. Kent plans to use nine standard cameras and two of the extra cameras.
ATS contracts with more than 160 municipalities throughout the U.S., including 18 in Washington for red light, speed and school bus stop arm cameras, according to a company spokesman. It has more than 4,000 cameras across the nation.
City staff costs are expected to be about $171,600 per year. Kent Municipal Court plans to add a judicial specialist at a cost of $103,620 per year for salaries and benefits to help cover the extra staff time for red-light fines. Costs for other court staff is about $28,080. Kent Police will pay officers to review violations at an overtime rate of $70 per hour for the anticipated 570 hours needed at a cost of $39,900 for approximately 1,719 violations per month, according to an ATS free feasibility study for the city.
“You have been upfront with what you are trying to achieve with public safety and with the city budget to fund programs,” Councilman Dennis Higgins said prior to the vote. “I am willing to move this forward.”
ATS is the same company that operates the city’s school zone traffic cameras to catch speeders. The city pays ATS more than $500,000 per year to operate that system. The city collected a record $1.2 million in 2017 from drivers caught speeding by cameras in four school zones, according to City Finance Department documents. Kent has collected $4.2 million in the first four years of the school traffic camera program.
The city will spend nearly $1.8 million of the school traffic camera funds this year to buy 29 new police SUVs ($62,000 each) as part of a new car-per-officer, take-home program the City Council approved in May.
Council President Bill Boyce voted in favor of adding red-light cameras.
“I got three of them in Renton,” he said about the cameras in that city. “It’s a sin, I got caught, I paid it. If you don’t run a light, you won’t get a ticket.”