Last of Kane County's red-light cameras to go dark, for now

When the calendar marks March 9, Kane County's highway system will be officially free of all red-light cameras.

The date marks at least a temporary end to one of the more controversial safety enforcement mechanisms in the county. However, the code book still allows local municipalities to apply for permits that could bring new red-light cameras to area roads.

The only two red-light cameras the county oversees are both along Randall Road in Geneva. One is at the intersection of Williamsburg Avenue. The other is at the intersection with Fargo Boulevard.

Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns has repeatedly supported and defended the use of the cameras to make his city's streets safer, calling those two intersections the “most dangerous” in all of Geneva at one point.

But Kane County implemented a change in the law in the fall of 2010 that capped the life span of any red-light camera on the county highway system at three years. Geneva's cameras will hit that third anniversary March 9.

Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen and several county board members campaigned, in part, on platforms that opposed red-light cameras. Lauzen even supported legislation to eliminate red-light camera tickets for illegal right turns and extend the duration of yellow lights by one more second.

But there has been no county-level legislative action by Lauzen or the new board that outright bans the future use of red-light cameras on county roads.

That said, members of the county board's transportation committee jokingly celebrated the looming demise of Geneva's cameras during a meeting Friday.

“This means you only have to be careful driving for another month,” said committee member T.R. Smith.

But that joke may only be temporarily valid.

“Nothing precludes somebody from applying for a red-light camera under our revised rules,” said Kane County Transportation Director Carl Schoedel. “But there's been a lot less interest in the cameras.”

Schoedel said interest in red-light cameras was hot and heavy for a few years until the public outcry against the devices began to overwhelm that initial political support. Schoedel said he can't recall any municipalities submitting a petition to the county to install a new red-light camera since the county board changed the standards for approving those permits at the end of 2010.

Those changes included the three-year expiration date, a ban of issuing tickets for turning right on a red light, and an annual review of accident data to determine if a camera was actually providing a safety benefit. Geneva's two cameras withstood those annual reviews for their entire life span.

Even though the county's rules still allow for red-light cameras, the full county board would still be part of the review process of approving any new camera.

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