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Red light cameras to go dark in New Jersey

Months of uncertainty are pretty much over: on December 16, all red light cameras in New Jersey will go dark.

A three paragraph letter was sent to local governments last week from the state DOT reminding them that the state’s red light camera program expires on Dec. 16.

The state gave municipalities the authority to use red light cameras through a five year pilot program.

The state giveth, and the state let expireth

For months, we’ve known renewal of the program was unlikely. The chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee told Watchdog Wire he wouldn’t consider renewing the program.

“My feelings are strong about them, I don’t like the cameras in the state,” Sen.  Nicholas J. Sacco said. “I believe they are extremely unpopular.”

Gov. Chris Christie said he was leaning against renewzl. And public opinion, though mixed, showed that most people realized the program was about raising revenue for towns, not making the public safer.

But not everyone was against renewing the program. State Assemblyman John Wisniewski still said he supported the cameras. Of course, one of the red light camera companies, Redflex, had supported him with a campaign donation–$2,500 between 2007 and 2010.

Now Wisniewski is talking about setting up speed cameras in schools. Who could possibly be against protecting the children, after all?

Redflex, and the other red light camera vendor in the state, American Traffic Solutions, also sell speed cameras and associated services.

Foolish towns and their revenue are soon parted

So what’s going to happen to towns that have budgeted for continuing red light camera revenue?

Local officials from across New Jersey descended on the statehouse last month to encourage lawmakers to renew the state’s red light camera program. The (unstated) reason? They need the money.

Linden, NJ is one municipality that participated in the lobbying. Councilman Peter Brown explained to NJ.com why he was there.

“This is an important program to us in Linden,” he said.

No wonder he thinks it’s important. According to publicly available budget documents, the town is counting on $1,277,200.00 to come in from red light cameras in the current budget year and says the revenue is at risk.

Listing red light camera revenue under an explanatory statement for “structural budget imbalances,” the 2014 adopted budget notes that the “2014 pilot [program] may not be renewed.”

So what’s next for Linden and other towns counting on the money? They are fighting to continue the program.

Night of the living red light cameras?

The cameras could rise from the dead. Municipalities are sending final crash data to DOT, which it will use to recommend whether the program should be permanently stopped, continued, or even, yes, expanded.

But in order for the cameras to make a comeback, legislation would need to be introduced, passed, and signed by the Governor.

Though that seems unlikely now, RLC companies have a strong ally in Assemblyman Wisniewski. The problem? Wisniewski is also one of Gov. Christie’s harshest critics, but he would need to win over the Governor’s support, barring a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override a veto.

Josh Kaib

Josh Kaib is the Assistant Editor of Watchdog Wire. Twitter: @joshkaib

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Must Read, Policy, Regulation, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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