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‘Final’ contract extension for tainted red-light camera firm as city shifts vendors

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Updated: February 19, 2014 6:10AM



Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday extended for a third time Chicago’s contract with a red-light camera vendor at the center of a $2 million bribery scandal to complete the transition to a new vendor.

Mayoral spokesman Bill McCaffrey said 229 of 352 red-light cameras have already made the transition to Xerox State & Local Solutions.

That still leaves 123 red-light cameras at 62 intersections in the hands of the disgraced vendor, Arizona-based Redflex Traffic Systems.

McCaffrey said the city would like nothing more than to wash its hands of Redflex, “But, we also want to make sure it’s done correctly.” Emanuel balanced his 2014 budget with $130 million in fines from red-light and speed cameras.

“Redflex is only paid for the cameras they are operating and that number decreases every day,” McCaffrey said.

“Xerox is going through a thorough process to ensure each camera is operating. ... We’re extending the [Redflex] contract for three months to keep the program in place while the equipment is transitioned. This will be the final extension.”

The city has signed a five-year contract — with three two-year extensions — that calls for Xerox to be paid $1,819-per-month to manage and maintain each of the city’s red-light cameras.

That’s just 42 percent of the $4,300 monthly fee that Chicago is paying Redflex. The more favorable terms are expected to save taxpayers $10 million-a-year over the life of the contract.

The dramatic drop in prices stems from the different technology used by the two companies. Redflex had “loop detectors mounted in the street.” Xerox is using less costly radar technology, McCaffrey said.

Last year, Emanuel ordered an independent audit of Redflex — and barred the company from competing for the new contract — amid allegations that the company showered more free trips than first believed on a former city official who oversaw the contract.

It happened after the company’s internal investigation concluded that Redflex paid to send former city transportation official John Bills to the Super Bowl and other sporting events and allegedly concealed those favors from the city.

Although Redflex was barred from competing for the new contract, Emanuel extended the disgraced company’s contract for six months to give the city time to select a new vendor.

A second extension was granted after competing vendors were explicitly told that their request to continue subcontracting with Redflex to ease the transition had been denied.

In early October, City Hall announced plans to remove 36 red-light cameras at 18 intersections by Jan. 31.

The timing of the mayor’s announcement — just as speed cameras were starting to churn $100 tickets — made it look like Emanuel was throwing motorists a bone.

But, the mayor insisted that he made the decision because the cameras had succeeded in reducing the number of serious accidents — not to soften the blow of video surveillance.

The 18 intersections where cameras will be removed either experienced no “right-angle crashes” or only one in 2012. They also have a “total crash rate”— calculated by dividing annual crashes by average daily traffic counts — of less than one percent, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation statistics.

On Friday, McCaffrey once again refused to say whether red-light cameras would be removed from other intersections that meet those same criteria.

E-MAIL: fspielman@suntimes.com

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