Arizona cities that want to place or keep photo enforcement cameras on state roads are going to have to prove they do more than generate fines.
Without debate the House on Monday gave final approval to legislation saying that communities can place photo radar and red light cameras on state highways -- anything with a route number -- only if they first prove it is "necessary for the public safety of the state.'' That specifically means showing that it will be a safety improvement.
Absent that proof, the state Department of Transportation, which has final say over use of the roads, would be precluded from giving the go-ahead.
Lawmakers did agree to alter the final version of HB 2477 to deal with the fact that there already are cameras set up along roads in several communities. Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said he was concerned the legislation would make it impossible for any city to show that the installation will actually result in further improvement in safety.
So now the legislation requires a city which already has speeding or red light cameras installed to show what has been their impact, comparing accidents prior to installation with what is occurring now. But it still leaves ADOT with the power to order removal if the agency determines the photo enforcement system "does not maintain a positive impact on public safety.''
The measure, which now goes to the governor, is a victory of sorts for supporters of photo radar. It means that lawmakers will not take up more far-reaching proposals to ban the use of automated enforcement systems on state roads.
And HB 2477 does not disturb the ability of counties, cities or towns to establish photo enforcement systems on their own locally maintained roads.
But the legislation stems from a belief among some at the Capitol that the cameras are designed less for public safety and more to generate citations -- and the fines that come with them that enrich city coffers.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, who crafted this measure, said this will ensure that at least the cameras placed on state highways have a legitimate purpose.
ADOT officials acknowledged that, until now, they have pretty much allowed cities and towns to erect cameras where they want on state roads.
Most are simple photo radar devices, designed to catch speeders. But ADOT has allowed Tucson to erect cameras at Oracle and River roads to spot those who run the red light there.
"If the city completes all of the permit requirements, the permits are granted,'' said agency spokesman Tim Tait said. He said the only issue for ADOT is to ensure that any installation complies with engineering safety standards.
Lesko's measure still leaves ADOT with some discretion on granting or rejecting a request. But the agency will first be required to review the number of vehicles operating each day on that stretch of the road, the percentage who violate traffic laws and any reports of motor vehicle accidents.
ADOT has existing agreements with Tucson, Chandler, El Mirage, Globe, Superior, Show Low and Star Valley. Tait said Sierra Vista and Casa Grande are working with ADOT to install photo enforcement cameras on state roads in their communities.