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County mulls more red-light cameras

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

While some communities in metro Atlanta are scrapping red-light camera systems, Clayton County is researching the possibility of installing additional ones.

On Tuesday, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted to offer a $26,800 contract to a professional engineering firm to locate the county's most dangerous intersections, and evaluate the potential benefits of installing red-light camera systems. The firm will also help the county register its existing red-light cameras with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

According to Jeff Metarko, director of the Clayton County Transportation and Development department, the county currently operates red-light cameras at two intersections: at the intersection of Mt. Zion Road and Mt. Zion Boulevard, and at the intersection of Upper Riverdale Road and Tara Boulevard. He said both intersections have a large number of accidents and that the county wants to keep the cameras in place.

"It's now required by state law for us to have any red-light cameras that we have permitted by the [Georgia] DOT," Metarko said. "We're hiring an engineering company to develop the permit package and go through the submittal/approval process with GDOT. All the existing locations were grandfathered in until the end of the year.

"At this time, we feel like [the existing red-light cameras] are still worthwhile to keep out in the field," he continued. "They seem to still be working in making the intersections operate in a safer manner. We have seen the number of citations drop at both intersections. That is a good thing ... people are abiding by the law."

Metarko said that in addition to registering the county's existing red-light cameras, the engineering firm will analyze the county's top 10 accident locations and evaluate the usefulness of installing red-light cameras at more intersections.

Earlier this year, several cities in Gwinnett County, including Duluth, Lilburn, Norcross, Snellville and Suwanee announced the suspension of their red-light camera programs. According to media reports, several cities suspended their use of cameras because the cost to operate them exceeded the amount of revenue generated through citations.

Clayton County commissioners said they believe the red-light cameras are serving a purpose and that profitability shouldn't be the focus.

"I think it's preventative," said Commissioner Wole Ralph. "There are some areas right now where people continue to engage in reckless behavior and it is causing a number of accidents. Once they see the red-light cameras, they stop the behavior. I think profit is the wrong motive for the cameras."

"They're not generating money and that's a good thing," said Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell. "It's doing what it's supposed to do. Those accidents cost us money. How long do the police and EMS [paramedics] have to stay out at accidents? It gets very expensive.

"I'm hoping that [the engineering firm] will give us some valuable information as to where any new red-light cameras should be and if we should eliminate some of the old ones," Bell said.