Chicago installing $786,975 worth of speed bumps, even with speed cameras on the way

SHARE Chicago installing $786,975 worth of speed bumps, even with speed cameras on the way
SHARE Chicago installing $786,975 worth of speed bumps, even with speed cameras on the way

Speed cameras will be installed next month near 50 Chicago schools and parks–and start churning out $35 and $100 tickets in September. But, that doesn’t mean the end of a less-costly alternative: speed bumps.

The Emanuel administration has awarded a $786,975 contract to Root Brothers Manufacturing & Supply to install speed bumps that will add to Chicago’s already extensive inventory of “traffic calming” devices.

Transportation Department spokesman Peter Scales said speed humps that make it difficult to speed without damaging your vehicle remain a key part of the city’s “tool box” of strategies to “calm traffic” and force motorists to slow down.

“Obviously, there isn’t going to be a speed camera on every corner, so we need as many tools as we can use,” Scales said in an e-mail to the Chicago Sun-Times.

He identified those tools as including: speed humps; so-called “pedestrian refuge islands in crosswalks; new safety zone signage and “street stencils”; high-visibility crosswalk markings; speed feedback signs; traffic signal, curb and ramp improvements; pedestrian countdown timers; lead pedestrian intervals and in-street “Stop for Pedestrians” signs.

The Sun-Times reported last year that Chicago had installed 10,000 speed humps in streets and alleys and created 450 cul-de-sacs, 400 traffic circles and 250 “bump-out” curbs since 2005 alone, many of them near schools and parks, raising questions about why the city also needs speed cameras.

Thousands more were installed prior to 2005, but the city had no record of the overall number or location.

“Show me that none of these things have worked around schools and parks and maybe you have an argument for speed cameras,” Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said at the time.

“You could use a speed camera where you have an indication that there’s speeding – on a major thoroughfare like Milwaukee or Western. But, that’s not where they’re looking.”

Emanuel was initially counting on $30 million in speed camera fines to bankroll children’s programs in his 2013 budget.

But, the five-year, $67 million contract with American Traffic Solutions took more than four months to negotiate, forcing the city to cut that revenue estimate in half.

CDOT has launched an outreach campaign—featuring ads on CTA buses and trains and videos posted on CDOT’s website and Twitter feed–to warn and educate motorists before speed cameras are installed in August, in weekly groups of six.

There will be two tiers of warnings to motorists —including an unlimited number during the first 30 days after cameras are installed and one more-per-driver after the break-in period is over.

Ticketing will begin in September. Speeders face $35 fines for going between six and 10 miles-per-hour over the speed limit near schools and parks and $100 for going 11 mph too fast.

Mayoral spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the city has a “draft list” of the first 50 of 300 potential speed camera locations that’s based on: “all vehicle crashes; serious and fatal crashes; bicycle and pedestrian crashes; speed-related crashes and crashes involving children.”

But, he refused to reveal the locations. Nor would he say when CDOT would ramp up to the City Council-imposed limit of 300 speed cameras citywide.

McCaffrey said the problem about whether cameras can capture high-definition images that show whether children are “visibly present” would be resolved by having “three different people determine if a child is present.” Motorists will also have the opportunity to challenge their violations before administrative hearing officers.

“If there is a question as to whether an individual captured on camera is a child, then we will not enforce the lower speed limit. That is the directive to city staff and vendor, who will have different people reviewing violations. We will not issue a ticket based on the lower school speed zone speed limit unless there is no question that a child was present and identifiable on film,” McCaffrey wrote in an e-mail.

The city will be divided into six regions, with each having “no fewer than” 10 percent of the citywide total.

To win approval from a reluctant City Council, the mayor agreed to cap the number of locations at 300 and reduced the lesser fine from $50-to-$35. Emanuel also agreed to two-tiers of warnings and to roll back the hours cameras would operate around schools from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

ATS is known around the country for slapping embarrassing video of motorists transgressions on YouTube to help alert people to the dangers of speeding and red-light running.

The Emanuel administration has insisted that the YouTube feature would not be used in Chicago.

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