Leadfoots, beware: Chicago to install new speed cameras this week

August 12, 2013

WBEZ/file
File: Red light camera. The city is hoping to catch speeders with the new cameras at fifty city locations by the end of the year.

Chicago leadfoots, beware.

After a months-long delay, controversial new speed enforcement cameras are set to go up near four Chicago parks this week.

It’s just the start of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to install automated speed cameras at 50 locations this year, to create what his administration calls “Children’s Safety Zones” within an eighth of a mile of city parks and schools.

The system will function similar to the city’s network of red light cameras: After one freebie written warning, the cameras will automatically send $35 tickets to people snapped driving between six and 10 miles over the speed limit. Drivers caught cruising faster than that face a $100 fine.

Cameras near schools would only be turned on between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., and those near parks would operate during regular park hours.

A recent pilot program run by American Traffic Solutions, the company recently awarded a five-year, $67 million contract to run the speed cameras, found 51,701 potential violations at two test sites, accounting for nearly ten percent of the vehicles that passed through the area.

“I think that, in and of itself, says there’s a speeding problem in the city and we need to do something to slow that down,” said Scott Kubly, the Chicago Department of Transportation official in charge of the city’s speed camera program. “If we never collect a penny because everybody starts abiding by the speed limit, the program will be a success.”

Emanuel’s administration muscled the speed camera legislation through Springfield last year, citing safety concerns for Chicago children. But critics have maintained the move was just a cash-grab from a city government that’s been struggling with budget deficits and mounting employee pension costs for the last several years.

The city initially projected it would take in between $25 and $30 million in revenue from speed camera tickets in 2013, but later cut that estimate about in half after installation delays, according mayoral spokesman Bill McCaffrey. The city expects to get between $40 and $60 million next year, when Emanuel is anticipating a $339 million budget shortfall.

The city has already named 12 locations for the new speed cameras. (Installations begin this week at the first four locations).

  • Garfield Park, 100 N. Central Park Ave.
  • Gompers Park, 4222 W. Foster Ave.
  • Washington Park, 5531 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive
  • Marquette Park, 6743 S. Kedzie Ave.
  • Humboldt Park, 1440 N. Humboldt Dr.
  • Douglas Park, 1401 S. Sacramento
  • Curie High School, 4959 S. Archer Ave.
  • McKinley Park, 2210 W. Pershing Rd.
  • Jones High School, 606 S. State St.
  • Legion Park, 3100 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
  • Abbott Park, 49 E. 95th St. Chicago
  • Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, 3857 W. 111th St.