The past several weeks have been dotted with spurts of attention dedicated to the future of red light violation cameras in New Jersey, with lawmakers including Gov. Chris Christie opining on the devices.
The debate over the usefulness of the cameras was whisked into the spotlight by Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R-Monmouth) who proposed a bill late last month that would lengthen the amber – or yellow – light by a half-second at intersections outfitted with the cameras, and prohibit a ticket from being issued at all if the violation occurred within a half-second after the traffic light turned red.
Last week, the conversation was reignited after O'Scanlon, in an interview with the Newark Star-Ledger, said a study by his office found nearly half of the towns statewide using the cameras have contracts with camera vendors that extend past Dec. 16, 2014 – the date a pilot program allowing red light cameras to operate in New Jersey ends.
Brick Township was one of the first municipalities in the state to use the red light cameras under the pilot program. According to Business Administrator Scott Pezarras, the contracts for the first two intersections outfitted with the cameras – Route 70 and Chambers Bridge Road, and Brick Boulevard and Hooper Avenue – have contracts that expire in 2014.
The contract expiration date of the third intersection to get the cameras – Route 70 and Brick Boulevard – was not available.
But regardless, said Pezarras, Brick's contract with American Traffic Solutions states the vendor cannot be paid if no tickets are generated, thus protecting the town from losing money.
"If you can't give out tickets, they can't make out any money at all," he said. "Other towns have negotiated different types of terms."
American Traffic Solutions has also publicly stated municipalities would not owe any money – regardless of their contract type – if the entire program is suspended in New Jersey.
Pezarras said Brick's method of issuing tickets to "rolling" stops before otherwise-legal right turns on red does not require motorists to stop for a minimum amount of time. Police officials have told Patch in the past that simply "inching out" to check for oncoming traffic will not activate the camera sensors.
The Dec. 16, 2014 end of the pilot program is shaping up to produce a major policy debate on the part of legislators who will be tasked with weighing the issues of traffic safety and revenue generation for cash-strapped local governments with a public that could be hesitant to support the devices.
“Believe me, this wasn't my idea, so I've got no stake in this thing," Gov. Chris Christie was reported to have said on his "Ask the Governor" show on NJ 101.5 radio.
Christie said the decision to make the program permanent or end it in New Jersey was the responsibility of the legislature, according to a show transcript posted on theNewspaper.com.
If the program does become a permanent fixture in the state, there will be discussions on how Brick's participation will evolve.
"If they do adopt it as law, I assume we're going to have further discussions with the police chief and administration to see if we're going to keep them in place," said Pezarras.