CAM CONTROVERSY: Windsor Heights Tries Again

Last August the DOT rejected a request by the city of Windsor Heights to install a speed camera along I-235. The city has taken the DOT to court, but while they wait for a ruling, they’re taking action on their own to patrol the freeway. The Windsor Heights City Council passed a resolution allowing the police department to place mobile speed cameras on the interstate.

Officials with the DOT said while they realize how affective speed cameras can be, they explained that in their minds, it’s not the only solution. The DOT’s answer to a high traffic, and high accident area, is to construct an acceleration lane between 63th and 73th Street this summer.

“That`s going to make a big difference in that area,” said Steve Gent with the Iowa Department of Transportation.

But Windsor Heights Chief of Police Dennis McDaniel says getting to that point could cause a bigger problem. “You are going to have a very significant construction area. With that comes narrower shoulders, comes more troubles, additional crashes,” said McDaniel. “So we`re going to monitor it very closely and see if we have the need to bring this tool in and if we do we won`t hesitate to utilize it.

Chief McDaniel says the unit they would start using on the interstate is a mobile vehicle unit, which has federally approved and mandated lighting systems on the back that will alert drivers that it’s there.

While there’s nothing stopping the city from putting a mobile unit on the interstate, there’s also nothing stopping the DOT from removing it.

“If they would put up a system and all of sudden traffic starts to back up, well then there’s a real chance of secondary crashes because the traffic is backing up and that could certainly happen,” said Gent.

“If the dot chooses to remove our enforcement vehicle I think that would be an interesting precedent that they`re setting,” said McDaniel.

The DOT is currently trying to make the “guidelines” they came up with last summer into rules to govern automated enforcement systems, and to do that they need to go through the legislature.