The administration of City-Parish President Joey Durel will put the City-Parish Council on the spot Tuesday with a vote on a resolution that would authorize Durel to begin renegotiating consolidated government’s contract with RedFlex, the company that operates the red-light cameras and speed vans on city streets in Lafayette. The vote will be a barometer for the council’s willingness to scrap electronic enforcement of city traffic laws; three Tea Party-backed council members — Chairman Jared Bellard (District 5), Vice Chair William Theriot (9) and Andy Naquin (5) — sponsored but later pulled an ordinance that would let the RedFlex contract expire in June. A source tells The Ind the trio didn’t have the votes to pass the ordinance. The council in late March got an ad-naseum presentation on the benefits of the SafeLight/SafeSpeed program, a PowerPoint extravaganza that went until nearly midnight.
Durel tells The Advocate he simply wants some direction from the council; if the panel votes down the resolution — a signal that an ordinance letting the contract expire will be approved — then there’s little value in beginning negotiations with RedFlex. In this respect, the resolution serves as a referendum on the program, which some council members have signaled they’d like to tweak by, among other things, only ticketing motorists for running red lights, not issuing citations for speeding. The council will conduct a vote on May 15 on an ordinance for final adoption that would let the contract expire.
In January, Director of Traffic and Transportation Tony Tramel, whose department oversees SafeLight/SafeSpeed, issued a status report on the program demonstrating its success in reducing collisions and changing driver behavior. Among the data in the report was evidence that the program sharply reduced collisions at intersections where speed cameras are located. Tramel wrote at the time that “reduction of traffic crashes appears to reflect a significant positive improvement in reducing traffic crashes related to driver behavior, which was originally identified as the principal purpose of the SafeLight/SafeSpeed programs. This reduction in traffic crashes increases the efficiency of the traffic control and traffic flow efforts, and decreases the number of serious traffic crashes to which public safety agencies must respond at the expense of taxpayers, thereby contributing to the overall public safety of Lafayette and ultimately the citizens of Lafayette.”
The SafeLight/SafeSpeed program generated just over $2 million in revenue last through citations for speeding and running red lights. LCG and RedFlex roughly split the revenue. Some opponents of the program argue it is less about promoting traffic safety and more about generating revenue, a dubious claim in light of the fact that less than one tenth of one percent of the more than 60 million vehicles that have passed through the camera-equipped intersections has received a citation.
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