The Murrieta City Council gave the green light to expanding the city’s red light camera program late Tuesday evening.
In a 4-0 decision council members asked the city manager to draft an agenda item that will expand the red light cameras from three to five intersections. No vote was given because it was a discussion item but Council man Douglas McAllister expressed his concerns. Councilmembers said the public safety of residents outweighed any concerns about the city using the system to generate revenue and violating residents’ privacy.
The two new cameras will be placed at Interstate 215 southbound off-ramp at Murrieta Hot Springs and the Interstate 15 northbound off-ramp to Murrieta Hot Springs Road. The city will keep cameras at Murrieta Hot Springs Road/Whitewood Road, Murrieta Hot Springs/Margarita Road and Clinton Keith Road/Nutmeg Avenue. City officials decided on keeping the two lower performing red light intersections with the hope that the two new intersections would subsidize the lower performing.
Council members said the program has succeeded in Murrieta by lowering the number of red light violations and broad side collisions.
“If we could prevent one person from dying from a red light runner the program is working,” Councilman Alan Long said.
The city chose the three intersections in 2006 because at the time they were the busiest. A short study was done, with police placing small cameras at the intersections and on a random work day they caught 40 to 55 cars running red lights.
Since the lights were installed that number has dropped to less than one a day at the Murrieta Hot Springs/Margarita and Clinton Keith/Nutmeg intersections. The Whitewood/Murrieta Hot Springs still has five to six violations a day. The intersection is one of the busiest in Murrieta with 66,000 vehicles traveling through the intersection daily.
The city also did a study on the number of broad side collisions at the red light camera intersections. Over the past three years there were 14 accidents at the intersection. The police took a look at the same three-year period on the three intersections to the east and found there were 45 broad side collisions.
The police suggested taking cameras from the Murrieta Hot Springs/Margarita and Clinton Keith/Nutmeg intersections and adding them to Interstate 215 southbound off-ramp at Murrieta Hot Springs and the Interstate 15 northbound off-ramp to Murrieta Hot Springs Road. The new cameras would raise the lease rate from $4,850 per month to $5,395 a month.
Since the start of the cameras the city has made in revenue, after paying the $58,200 per quarter lease to ATS, $261,750. The amount does not include time spent by Murrieta officers to review possible citations, according to the staff report.
The city issues a $476 fine for running a red light, whether it is issued from a camera or a police office. Of that amount $158 goes to the city. The city is able to subsidize the camera program with three violations a day, Froboese said. The city needs at least two violations per intersection to fund the cameras.
The fine amount is not set by the city but by the state legislature.
A handful of residents attended the meeting and spoke for and against the red light cameras.
Temecula resident Tom Stoba came out to the meeting to speak his concerns.
“I never got any speeding ticket so I don’t have an ax to grind,” he said. “I just don’t like the concept. I don’t believe it’s the safety factor and have a problem with revenue factor.”
Cathy Bearse came out to support the program. She lives near the Whitewood/Murrieta Hot Springs interchange and had a neighbor involved in a car crash in 2004.
“Red light means to stop,” the Murrieta woman said. “I think they are needed. I feel safer in my neighborhood because we need them.”