Kirkland considers traffic cameras for school zones

The traffic camera pilot program will be tested in September at three schools in two school zones.

The overall goal of the traffic cameras is to decrease driving speeds in school zones and encourage alternate ways of getting to school, such as walking or biking. <em>Reporter </em>file photo

The overall goal of the traffic cameras is to decrease driving speeds in school zones and encourage alternate ways of getting to school, such as walking or biking. Reporter file photo

The city of Kirkland will soon implement traffic enforcement cameras at John Muir Elementary, Kamiakin Middle and Rose Hill Elementary schools in an attempt to reduce speeds in school zones and encourage alternate school commutes.

City officials plan to launch this pilot program in September to coincide with the school year. The cameras will be active 30 minutes before school starts till 3o minutes after school ends for each individual school. Speeding drivers caught on camera will receive warnings for the first 30 days. Citations will be issued after this period.

The Kirkland City Council considered two different fines at its March 5 meeting. Potentially, the citations will fine drivers $136 for exceeding 25 mph and a graduated fine of $250 for exceeding 30 mph. The school zone speed limit is 20 mph and as of the Reporter’s Monday deadline, council had not established the fines.

Citations will be issued to the vehicle’s registered owner, but if someone else was driving the car, the owner will have to state in writing or in person to the court that the “vehicle involved was, at the time, stolen or in the care, custody, or control of some person other than the registered owner,” according to a city press release.

City vehicles and buses will also be subject to fines.

The city stated in the release that the primary goal of this pilot program is to see if traffic enforcement cameras will decrease speeds in school zones. Additionally, a secondary goal is to encourage people to walk and bike to school.

Each camera will cost about $120,000 to install, amortized over a five-year contract period, according to city estimates. This cost is covered by the fines collected and will essentially cost the city nothing unless the program is canceled, in which case the city would pay about $2,000 a month for every month remaining in the five-year contract term, according to City Councilmember Toby Nixon.

Nixon added that if the fines for a particular month don’t cover the costs fully, that deficit is carried over to a future month where there is an excess of fines. Additionally, if there is an overall deficit at the end of the five years, the amount is excused and the city pays nothing. Any excess money generated has been dedicated to improving pedestrian and bicycle safety.

The contract will include options for early contract termination that “provides for a recalculation of the payments needed to fulfill the city’s obligation.”

The three pilot schools were chosen based on traffic data collected by city workers and feedback from traffic enforcement officers. The two school zones, one between John Muir and Kamiakin and one for Rose Hill elementary, had the highest traffic volume and speeding incidents during the study period.

A third-party consultant conducted a second study in May 2018 and found on two days, May 3 and May 8, 81 percent of drivers exceeded the 20 mph speed limit during school hours in both school zones. Of those drivers, 34 percent and 47 percent exceeded 25 mph in the Rose Hill and John Muir school zones, respectively.

The John Muir and Kamiakin school zone has an overall higher traffic volume than the Rose Hill school zone.

The city of Kirkland plans to lead a public outreach campaign to inform locals of the upcoming cameras and will clearly mark each camera location with informational signs where drivers enter the school zones.

Update: An earlier version of this story did not include that the cost of the cameras’ installation would be covered by fines collected.

The city of Kirkland provided an example of what the traffic cameras will potentially look like. The cameras will issue warnings for the first 30 days and citations afterwards. Photo courtesy of the city of Kirkland

The city of Kirkland provided an example of what the traffic cameras will potentially look like. The cameras will issue warnings for the first 30 days and citations afterwards. Photo courtesy of the city of Kirkland

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