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South City red-light cameras may get ax

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More than $30,000 each month is spent on South San Francisco’s red-light cameras, according to officials, an expense the City Council will need to decide whether is worth continuing next month.

The decision to install the cameras — which take photos of vehicles that pass through red lights at busy intersections — was made by the City Council in October 2006, according to city documents.

The $30,000-a-month contract with American Traffic Solutions covers installation of the cameras and maintenance, South City police Chief Mike Messoni said.

Cameras were installed at two intersections along El Camino Real — Hickey Boulevard and Westborough Boulevard — in June for a one-year trial period, but when city officials realized the contract was never ratified, the panel passed a resolution approving the contract in January, therefore voiding thousands of citations issued between installation and the contract ratification.

Though a final amount of reimbursement is unknown, officials estimate more than 3,000 tickets issued will be refunded. Warnings are now given to drivers caught running red lights.

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A red-light violation costs roughly $446, which is distributed to various agencies.

The intersections were chosen because of the high volume of vehicles as well as the number of accidents listed.

According to documents from the contract’s ratification in January, the cameras have benefited at least one intersection.

Hickey Boulevard and El Camino Real has seen a significant decrease in reported accidents since the red-light camera’s installation, according to the documents. On the other hand, the Westborough Boulevard and El Camino Real intersection has seen an increase in reported accidents.

Messoni said his presentation at the City Council in April will review the benefits, if any, to the program.

“It’s only been six months,” he said. “Like any other enforcement tool, we try to use this to show people there is a law, and we try to enforce it by minimizing the violators.”

City Attorney Steve Mattas said he did not know if the city would continue the program. South San Francisco has the option to end the contract in June or extend it through 2014.

The City Council will discuss whether to end the contract April 14, following public testimony.

Mattas said it is likely a decision will be made that night, but according to city documents, the council has until the end of April to make a final decision.

Green light or stop sign?

South San Francisco is deciding whether to retain or disband the red-light camera program at two intersections.

$30,000: Monthly cost of red-light cameras
2: Intersections red-light cameras are installed
$446: Cost of average red-light citation
3,000: Tickets voided
April 14: Date when City Council will vote on red-light cameras’ future

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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