Red-light cameras will start catching drivers July 1 who run signals at three Kent intersections.
Because it’s a new program in the city, registered owners of the vehicles will only receive warnings during the month of July, said Police Chief Rafael Padilla at a June 11 City Council Public Safety Committee meeting.
“We will issue tickets starting Aug. 1,” Padilla said.
The fine for running a red light is $136. The city will use revenue from the program – estimated at about $1 million to $2 million per year – to fund the purchase later this year of body-worn cameras for 105 officers, another new program in the city.
“Complaints led us to look at this,” Padilla said about residents who contacted the city about too many drivers running red lights.
Police will implement the 11 cameras at six intersections in two phases. The first phase will include the following intersections:
• Central Avenue North and East Smith Street: northbound and southbound
• Central Avenue North and East James Street: northbound and eastbound
• Kent Des Moines Road and Pacific Highway South: eastbound
Crews began installing the cameras earlier this month at the three intersections.
The council in November 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. ATS is the same company the city contracts with about $367,000 per year for school traffic zone cameras to catch speeding drivers.
Kent will install cameras at three more intersections for warnings starting Aug. 1 and tickets beginning Sept. 1. Those intersections are:
• 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
“The good part of it is helping to reduce collisions at intersections and it doesn’t cost you a moving violation – it doesn’t go against your insurance,” Padilla said.
Councilmember Toni Troutner asked Padilla about people caught making right turns on a red light.
“We talked about when first brought to this committee that we will look at it to make sure any infractions are not for people stopping and making a right-hand turn,” Troutner said.
“Our standard will be the same as a officer watching (from a vehicle) whether or not it’s a violation,” Padilla said. “That standard will apply when we see it on video. We are not interested in one tire over the line so it is a violation. An officer watches the video to ensure it is an infraction. We are not looking to do unreasonable red-light tickets.”
The city of Des Moines issued 15,699 tickets in 2018 for drivers caught by camera making illegal right turns at westbound Kent Des Moines Road and Pacific Highway South, according to city documents. The city issued 24,443 tickets at the same intersection in 2017. The other six red-light cameras in the city had 2,700 or fewer infractions each of the past two years.
In addition to paying ATS, 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.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated from an earlier version to correct one of the intersections in the first phase.