Spokane’s City Council is planning to put more school zone cameras in next year, doubling the number in our area from two to four. According to the Spokesman-Review, the new cameras will go up around Ridgeview and Willard elementary schools in north Spokane.
City Councilman Breean Beggs is sponsoring the resolution the council will consider and says it will also set up a spending plan for the money paid in fines by drivers caught by those cameras speeding in school zones. Under Beggs’ resolution, that money would go to pay for sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic-slowing devices and police enforcement.
Ridgeview Elementary sits between Maple and Ash streets. A study conducted during four days in June showed that 59 percent of drivers traveling north on Maple and 74 percent of drivers heading south on Ash were exceeding the posted speed limit by six miles per hour or more, enough to trigger a citation as part of the city’s automated system. Students at Ridgeview cross Maple and Ash at Rowan and Nebraska avenues, and it’s not uncommon to see drivers exceeding 35 mph there even when school is letting out, according to school officials.
The traffic study also indicated that between 89 and 91 percent of drivers were traveling at least six miles per hour over the speed limit near on Monroe Street near Heroy Avenue, in the school zone for Willard Elementary.
In the meantime, data shows the city’s two existing school zone cameras are discouraging speeding. Between January and November of 2016, there were 9,287 speeding tickets recorded at Longfellow and Finch elementary schools, according to Police Officer Craig Bulkley, who is in charge of overseeing the city’s traffic camera programs. Most of those tickets were issued outside Longfellow Elementary, off of Nevada Street. This year, that total has dropped about 20 percent, to 7,347 citations. z
In addition to approving the speed cameras, the council will be asked to commit to how money paid in fines will be spent in the future. When the cameras were approved in 2015, the verbiage said that fines from resulting from them “may be spent” on street improvements, but it didn’t prohibit other uses. A follow-up resolution passed last year split the money between street improvements and the salaries for four new neighborhood resource officers as well as a municipal court administrator to process the citations. That resolution expires at the end of next year. Beggs’ current proposal calls for limiting the funds to “infrastructure and programming initiatives” as well as “the hiring of traffic officers,” who will focus on schools where there are not yet any speed cameras.
The council will also be asked to vote on more than $2 million in road and sidewalk improvements throughout the city for 2019, funded the money collected in fines from school zone speeders and drivers running red lights at camera-controlled intersections throughout the city. Between the red light cameras and the two school zone speed cameras, the city has a little less than $3 million in its “traffic calming” account. The City Council will consider both resolutions on December 18.