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City Of Chicago Begins Testing Speed Cameras

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Updated 12/3/12 – 5 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Attention lead foots: Consider this a warning.

The City Of Chicago started testing its new speed camera equipment on Monday. The testing will continue until Jan. 3, and the city says it is simply “evaluating the equipment.”

No speeding violations will be issued, but officials cautioned that drivers should always obey the posted speed limit.

Once speed cameras are installed for actual enforcement, they can be placed within 1/8 mile of any school or park.

Starting Monday, city officials began testing both mobile camera systems and permanent camera systems, which will be temporarily installed at:

  • McKinley Park, at approximately 2223 W. Pershing Road
  • Warren Park, at approximately 6541 N. Western Ave
  • Dulles Elementary School, at approximately 6340 S. King Drive
  • Near North Montessori School, at approximately 1446 W. Division

A variety of factors determined the test locations — including location within a safety zone, frequency of speed related crashes, and ease of accessibility to power, the city said in a news release. The systems will be removed after the evaluation period.

The Department of Transportation is installing signs to inform motorists of the evaluation period.

Even though the cameras that have been set up are just being tested at this point, drivers aren’t happy.

“I understand, with the school zone, how it might be a safety issue, protecting the kids. But then, at the same time, you’ve got guards walking the kids to and from, so I really don’t understand the purpose of it or why we would need it right now,” Katie Ellspermann said.

There are no citations or fines during the 30-day test period, but once enforcement begins next Spring, tickets will cost speeding drivers between $35 and $100 when children are present.

“I don’t know if it’s going to do any good, but it definitely is a ploy to get more revenue for the city,” driver Ravi Mohil said.

While critics said the speed cameras are about cash for the city, school officials and the mayor have said it’s about safety for the kids.

When he first announced the speed camera plan, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “I hope I get no revenue out of this.”

Jerome Manansala, the safety and security coordinator at Near North Montessori School, said, “Sixty percent of our kids are crossing the street every morning to get to class.”

He said, while most drivers appear to be attentive, they also speed and often try to beat the red light at the intersection outside the school.

“There’s a lot of people that … they’re not malicious in any way, but they’re just not paying attention,” he said. “It’s easy to see it as just a way to generate revenue, but for those of us who are in education, and that see the dangers every morning, that doesn’t matter as much to us.”

But Mike Brockway, who runs The Expired Meter website, has been crying foul over the city’s speed camera plan. He said the city is already counting on the money from the cameras, before they’re even tested, much less installed.

“There’s about $20 to $30 million, I believe, in the budget this year that comes out of the speed cameras,” he said.

He said the city could do much simpler things to promote traffic safety, from replacing worn-away traffic markings on the pavement to installing more speed limit signs.

“Try to find a speed limit sign in the city. You can go down for miles and miles of different streets, and never find a speed limit sign,” he said.

Of course, drivers will ultimately decide if the cameras are cash cows, because no speeding will mean no fines for the city to collect.

City officials said, once the speed cameras are officially up and running, there will be a 30-day grace period where only warnings are issued.

Once enforcement begins after that, drivers would get one warning. Fines begin with the next offense.

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