Council OKs speed cameras near schools
New Carrollton will use three devices in five zones
Motorists used to cruising through New Carrollton at high speeds will need to practice smiling for the camera as of Oct. 1.
The New Carrollton City Council on Aug. 19 voted 4-0 to approve the use of three speed cameras among five designated school zones in the city. The purpose of installing the cameras is to increase pedestrian safety, city officials said.
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed legislation in May that authorizes municipalities to install speed cameras in designated school and construction work zones. The law takes effect Oct. 1.
New Carrollton initially will test the cameras during October by sending offenders warnings for speeding, city Police Chief David G. Rice said. Beginning Nov. 1, drivers who are photographed traveling at 12 or more mph above the speed limit will be mailed $40 citations, he added.
City Administrator J. Michael Downes said the cameras do not cost the city any money to install but the camera vendor, Lanham-based OptoTraffic, likely will receive a monthly fee from the revenue the devices generate. City officials still must meet with officials of OptoTraffic to finalize those details, he said.
Officials do not yet have an estimate of how much revenue the cameras will likely generate, Rice said. State law allows municipalities to keep 10 percent of their city's budget in speed camera revenue but requires any money exceeding that figure to be sent to the state, Rice said.
Because the city's current fiscal year budget is $7 million, New Carrollton could potentially collect as much as $700,000 in revenue from the cameras, Downes said.
Speed camera revenue must be used to pay for public safety projects, such as new street signage and hiring crossing guards, Rice said.
The city will move the three cameras around five zones, each of which surrounds an elementary school. The schools that will be affected by the cameras are: Carrollton Elementary School; Lamont Elementary School; Margaret Brent Regional School; Robert Frost Elementary School; and Charles Carroll Middle School.
The cameras can be moved depending on traffic volume and resident complaints, Rice said
The main thoroughfares within the zones are: Westbrook Drive from Legation Road to Lamont Drive; Lamont Drive from Riverdale Road to Good Luck Road; Good Luck Road from Auburn Road to the I-495 overpass; Carrollton Parkway from Longbranch Drive to 85th Place and Riverdale Road from Lamont Drive to Mahoney Drive.
Riverdale Road, Lamont Drive and Good Luck Road are "fast tracks" in the city, Rice said after the Aug. 19 meeting in which the council approved the cameras. He added that during a check July 14 to July 16, he spotted approximately 1,700 instances in which a vehicle drove 12 mph or higher above the speed limit at the intersection of Good Luck Road and Cathedral Avenue.
The city held a public hearing prior to the start of the council meeting to allow residents a chance to testify on the cameras.
Resident Rita Cocchiaro said her home off Lamont Drive is at the top of a hill and when she slows to pull into her driveway vehicles swerve around her in the direction of oncoming traffic. She also is afraid to exit her driveway to avoid speeding vehicles, she said
"I'm afraid I'm going to get clobbered one day pulling out of my driveway," she added.
Resident Mark Bird said Good Luck Road is a hot spot for speeding drivers.
"The police can't handle the heavy traffic that's out there," he said. "It's dangerous. I think the cameras could help them."
The city will install signs in the zones indicating that drivers are heading into a school zone that is speed camera-enforced, Rice said.