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No ulterior motive in removal of red-light cameras: mayor

Red light camerLaSalle Kinzie Chicago | Sun-Times files

Red light camera at LaSalle and Kinzie in Chicago | Sun-Times files

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Updated: November 4, 2013 12:10PM

Red-light cameras are coming down at 18 Chicago intersections because they’ve reduced accidents — not to soften the blow of speed cameras around schools and parks, Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted Wednesday.

The timing of the mayor’s announcement — just as speed cameras are about to start churning out $35 and $100 tickets in those areas — makes it look like Emanuel is throwing motorists a bone.

He appears to be giving drivers a small measure of relief from Big Brother surveillance just as they’ll be forced to endure even more of it — with 50 speed cameras in place by Dec. 31. Nine of those cameras already have been installed — around Gompers, Garfield, McKinley and Marquette parks.

City Hall says ticketing will begin only after it is certain that all of the warnings have actually been mailed to speeding motorists.

Even after the 30-day warning period, speeders will get one more freebie before fines are assessed. None of those final warnings have been issued, officials said.

The mayor insisted Wednesday that the timing of pulling down the cameras at the 18 intersections is purely coincidental.

“We got the information for the first time provided [by the state]. We can provide you with all that information. We’re taking those cameras down because it has actually been an effective deterrent,” the mayor said.

“Those cameras are no longer needed from that perspective so, for the first time ever, the city looked at it given the new information and made the decision to remove ’em.”

Earlier this year, Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded there was no evidence to substantiate the city’s claim that red-light cameras have either reduced accidents or are installed at the most dangerous intersections.

Ferguson said the Chicago Department of Transportation was unable to produce evidence that accident data was used in the selection of red-light camera locations or that CDOT continually evaluates accident data to relocate cameras to the most dangerous spots.

In fact, in the decade since the program began, Ferguson noted that only 10 cameras at five intersections have been moved.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) was asked Wednesday whether he believes red-light camera removal is a response to Ferguson, a legitimate answer to the declining number of accidents at 18 intersections or a politically motivated effort to ease the sting of speed cameras.

“All of the above. Softening the blow. A response to the Ferguson report. The halo effect. Everybody knows a camera is there, so they slow down. Revenue is down. It’s not worth it to have a camera at those locations,” he said.


Twitter: @fspielman

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