Pasco is about to become the first city in the Mid-Columbia to focus cameras on red light runners at busy intersections.
Crews are installing the red light cameras at Burden Road and Road 68, and at Court Street and 20th Avenue.
The cameras will be turned on by April 15.
For the first 30 days, drivers caught running red lights will receive written warnings in the mail.
After the phase-in, owners of vehicles photographed entering intersections after the light turns red could be mailed a traffic ticket that carries a $125 fine under the Pasco Municipal Code.
Reducing crashes at key intersections
The amount was set by the Pasco City Council last August, when it gave red light cameras the proverbial green light at the request of Police Chief Bob Metzger.
The goal is to reduce the number of right-angle or “T-bone” style accidents caused by red light runners. Traffic is increasing at the city’s busiest intersections, which are too constrained to offer patrol vehicles a perch to observe traffic.
City officials considered roundabouts and other traffic-slowing methods before concluding red light traffic cameras would be the most cost-effective way to address a rising problem.
Both intersections have crash rates that exceed acceptable levels of 1 crash or less for every million vehicles.
The rate for North 20th and Court 2.86 crashes per million vehicles.
The rate for Road 68 and Burden is 1.2 per million.
Traffic growing with population increase
Population growth is driving up traffic and increasing the risk of the most dangerous types of crashes, T-bone collisions that injure and kill.
Red light cameras are new to the Tri-Cities, but not Washington state. State law allows local government to deploy traffic cameras.
About two dozen cities, including Seattle and Spokane, use them.
Spokane reported a 24 percent drop in crashes and a 51 percent decrease in T-bone wrecks, according to background information compiled by Pasco.
Pasco is contracting with Glendale, Ariz.-based Redflex Traffic Systems to run the program.
How it works
The red light cameras photograph the rear part of vehicles entering an intersection on a red light.
According to the city, if a vehicle is within the intersection when the signal turns red, it will not be flagged as a violator.
The photos of potential violators will be reviewed by a Pasco police officer before a ticket is issued. Officers are authorized to determine if there was a violation or not.
If there is an infraction, the notice will be sent to the vehicle owner. Infractions can be contested through Pasco Municipal Court.
Pasco City Manager Dave Zabell said red light fines will be used to run the program, not other city operations.
He said it is just another tool to change bad driving habits.