Oak Brook Village protests IDOT approval of Oakbrook Terrace red light cameras
Oak Brook Village officials recently expressed their outrage over the two red light cameras that will be installed at the intersection of Illinois Highway 83 and 22nd Street.
The intersection is within Oakbrook Terrace's boundaries near the Oak Brook Center mall.
Oak Brook Village officials opposed the installation of red light cameras, which have been discussed in Oakbrook Terrace for years. In response to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) issuance of a permit for the red light cameras, Oak Brook Village President Gopal Lalmalani offered the services of the village's police department for traffic enforcement at the intersection. He alleged that Oakbrook Terrace sought the red light cameras due to the increased revenue that would be provided through tickets and other traffic enforcement activities. Oakbrook Terrace receives no tax revenue from the adjoining mall or other businesses.
The hotly debated red light cameras also engendered accusations of bribery. The president and CEO of SafeSpeed LLC and Triad Consulting services, Nikki Zollar, made a $2,500 donation to Mayor Tony Regucci's campaign on Oct. 27, the day before the red light permit was issued.
"Pay-to-play at its worst!" the DuPage Country Republicans posted on social media. "Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci requested red light camera permits then accepted a $2,500 campaign donation from a red light camera company one day after its approval."
IDOT had previously denied permits for the cameras. The March 3 denial by IDOT indicated that the traffic and accident data for 2015-2017 could be submitted for additional review. Oakbrook Terrace submitted video from November 2015 that showed the pattern of traffic violations at the intersection. After reviewing the video, IDOT sent an approval letter dated May 20.
While the red light permits were finally granted by IDOT this year, the contract with SafeSpeed was approved by the Oakbrook Terrace City Council in September 2012. The number of crashes at the intersection, 73 in 2011 and 53 in 2010, led to the unanimous vote for red light camera enforcement.
The contract was years in the making. Former City Administrator John Carpino told the Chicago Tribune in 2012 that the city had considered red light camera enforcement at that intersection before he was appointed in November 2010. As a former deputy police chief of Oakbrook Terrace, Carpino was familiar with the intersection and its frequent accidents.
"I've been out there myself, arranging for helicopters to land to evacuate people off to Loyola Medical Center for trauma," Carpino told the Chicago Tribune in 2012. "We've had cars cut in half, we've had fatal wrecks, and we've had horrific crashes. So we targeted the worst intersection in our city."
When the City Council signed the contract with SafeSpeed, it anticipated that the cameras would be installed in 2013. The city had to wait for final implementation, however, because IDOT had to issue permits for the cameras. Route 83 is a state highway and controlled by IDOT.
"At this point, the cameras are the only technology we have," Carpino told the Chicago Tribune in 2012. "There's nothing else we can do to reduce the number of motor vehicle crashes other than having manpower sit there."
The use of red light cameras for traffic enforcement has increased since 2000. U.S. crash data from 1997 indicated that motorists who ran red lights caused 44 percent of all fatalities at intersections controlled by traffic signals.
Red light cameras provide 24/7 coverage while freeing officers to respond to crimes and other incidents. The cameras also provide a record of violations at the intersection.
A 2010 Texas Transportation Institute white paper "Effectiveness of Red Light Cameras" by Brian Bochner and Troy Walden revealed that the most dangerous type of collision, right-angle crashes, were reduced by approximately 25 percent. Rear-end collisions, however, increased by 7 percent to 40 percent in six of the seven jurisdictions studied. The results varied by location. In general, red light violations decreased at all 132 sites.
With IDOT approval for the red light cameras, Oakbrook Terrace can proceed with the installation. The permit, issued on Oct. 28, gives the city 180 days to complete the camera installation. The cameras will monitor southbound Route 83 and eastbound 22nd Street.
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