Kent considers installing red-light cameras at six intersections

Feasibility study continues about costs, revenue

Red-light traffic cameras could be coming next year to Kent with six intersections under consideration.

Kent Police are moving forward this fall with a feasibility study approved in July by the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.

“We are looking at the intersections with the highest rate of collisions,” Police Chief Rafael Padilla told the council during his Aug. 21 Public Safety report.

Those intersections include:

• 104th Avenue SE and SE 240th Street

• Central Avenue North and East Smith Street

• Central Avenue North and East James Street

• 68th Avenue South and South 212th Street

• 108th Avenue SE and SE 208th Street

• South 260th Street and Pacific Highway South

The chief expects to return to the Public Safety Committee in October with results of the study, paid for by Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS), Inc. The company will examine traffic data, implementation cost, revenue projection and impact on staff time.

ATS is the same company that runs the city’s school zone traffic camera program to catch speeding drivers.

“If approved, we expect it to take six to eight months to install cameras,” Padilla said.

City leaders said they receive a lot of complaints about drivers running red lights, so they decided to look into installing the cameras in Kent.

That’s a complete switch from two years ago when the council’s Public Safety Committee halted a study about installing red-light cameras. Committee members Dana Ralph – now mayor – and Les Thomas were against city staff looking into the proposal brought up by then Councilman Jim Berrios, chair of the committee.

A written report in 2016 from the Kent Police Department, which analyzed studies and statistics in Los Angeles, Arizona, Texas as well as Kent’s neighboring cities, concluded it’s undetermined whether red light cameras make intersections safer or not.

“There is no clear-cut answer,” the report said. “In some intersections collisions are reduced, in others they are increased.”

Ralph decided against the proposal after reading the report.

Auburn Police had cameras for six years before the city ran into billing problems with their vendor and owed the vendor money. The city dropped the program in 2013. The Auburn City Council also decided it wanted a more inviting and friendly city instead of one where the residents felt big brother was watching them, according to the Kent Police study.

The city of Des Moines added red-light cameras in 2016 at three intersections, including cameras at the city of Kent border near Pacific Highway South and Kent Des Moines Road. That intersection only has cameras in two directions that are in the city of Des Moines because the rest of the intersection is in the city of Kent.

A report this week in the Seattle Times showed that the city of Des Moines camera for drivers making a right turn from westbound Kent Des Moines Road to northbound Pacific Highway South gave out more than 24,000 tickets in 2017, by far and away the most in the entire region. The fine is $136 for running a red light.

School zone camera update

Padilla told the council the two additional school zone traffic cameras approved by the council earlier this year for Springbrook and Meadow Ride elementary schools are expected to be installed in November. Police had hoped to have the cameras installed when school started last week.

“It’s a tentative timeline,” he said. “I want to emphasize this is subject to change. We are looking to install at mid-November – running a warning period on infractions for a month – which puts us in mid-December.”

Full enforcement would start in January for violators of the 20 mph speed limit when children are present in the mornings when schools open and the afternoons when schools let out.

The city’s law department determined that three of the four flashing beacon assemblies already located at the two schools for drivers to slow down will need to be relocated before the cameras can be installed in order to comply with state law, according to a written report to the council from Chief Administrative Officer Derek Matheson.

The city has cameras at four elementary schools – Sunrise, Neely-O’Brien, Meridian and Millennium to catch speeding drivers. The program brought in $1.2 million to the city in 2017. Kent is spending a majority of the revenue this year to buy new police vehicles.

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