By Bob Uphues
Riverside's village manager and police chief plan to meet with representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation to argue for the installation of red-light cameras at certain intersections after the state agency denied their request made last year.
Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances said she was seeking clarity from IDOT after the village's red-light camera vendor, SafeSpeed LLC, informed her that proposed intersections for the cameras didn't measure up to required standards.
The village did not receive an official letter from IDOT denying the red-light camera request, but in response to an inquiry from the Landmark, an IDOT spokesman confirmed the agency's denial of two cameras at First Avenue and 31st Street and one camera at 26th Street and Harlem Avenue.
"The department notified the appropriate parties that these applications will not be approved," wrote IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell in an email. "We have offered to meet and discuss the application with the applicants, in this case the vendor and the village."
Riverside's board of trustees voted 4 to 1 last October to enter into an agreement with SafeSpeed LLC, which handled the IDOT red-light camera application process.
That company had identified the northbound and eastbound lanes of the intersection at 31st Street and First Avenue as well as eastbound 26th Street at Harlem Avenue as locations where traffic counts would support installing red-light cameras.
SafeSpeed LLC is the most widely used red-light camera vendor in the Chicago suburbs, bringing in millions for itself and its client communities from revenue collected from people running red lights. The vast majority come from drivers who slowly roll through red lights while making right turns.
The company splits the revenue from each $100 ticket. Client communities net $60 from every successfully prosecuted red-light ticket, while SafeSpeed LLC nets $40. Riverside also would have paid the company $500 per month for maintenance and repair of each camera and other services.
Riverside had planned on using revenue derived from the red-light camera program to help pay for a comprehensive surveillance camera network at key locations in the village. Riverside rolled out its first cameras in that network earlier this year in the downtown area.
Without the red-light camera revenue, funding for the larger security camera system would need to come from another source.
According to Frances, SafeSpeed LLC informed the village that IDOT was seeking additional information related to Riverside's application, but she wasn't clear on what information was being sought.
"I want to see what the additional data is," said Frances. "Do we have to restart the process or are we in a holding pattern?"
IDOT's spokesman did not reference additional data in his email to the Landmark explaining why Riverside's application was being rejected. The 26th Street and Harlem Avenue location was rejected, Tridgell wrote, because traffic signals there were interconnected with signals for the Canadian National Railroad grade crossing gates just south of the intersection.
The First Avenue red-light cameras were rejected, said Tridgell, "due to not meeting the threshold of an average of three red light-running crashes per year," which he called a "longtime, standard policy."
Riverside did not apply for red-light cameras at the intersection of First Avenue and Ridgewood Road/Forest Avenue last year because the intersection was a construction zone, related to a large-scale sewer repair project being conducted by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
While work on that project is complete, the project has not been closed out officially by MWRD.