Controversial red-light cameras in Oakbrook Terrace ordered off

  • Illinois Department of Transportation officials have rescinded a permit for Oakbrook Terrace to operate controversial red-light cameras at Route 83 and 22nd Street.

      Illinois Department of Transportation officials have rescinded a permit for Oakbrook Terrace to operate controversial red-light cameras at Route 83 and 22nd Street. Rick West | Staff Photographer, April 20

 
 
Updated 5/13/2022 5:10 PM

The state has ordered Oakbrook Terrace officials to turn off a set of controversial red-light cameras that generates millions of dollars in fines for the city each year.

The Illinois Department of Transportation revoked the operating permit for the devices at Route 83 and 22nd Street because Oakbrook Terrace officials hadn't kept up with the safety paperwork required to maintain the permit.

 

"Despite repeated requests, the city did not submit the post-installation analysis on the effectiveness of the camera system to improve safety at the intersection, as required by IDOT policy," IDOT spokeswoman Maria Castaneda said.

Meanwhile, Oakbrook Terrace City Administrator Amy Marrero blamed IDOT for the delay in reporting.

"The city has not yet filed the three-year evaluation report because the Illinois Department of Transportation has not compiled the 2021 crash data for the intersection," she said Friday in a news release. "The city believes this to be the first time that the Illinois Department of Transportation has revoked a highway permit issued for an automated traffic law enforcement system due to its own inaction."

The cameras have long been the scourge of neighboring Oak Brook officials who were planning to sue to have the cameras turned off, complaining the devices targeted shoppers at nearby Oak Brook Center.

Oak Brook village officials reported that the signs at the intersection warning drivers of the cameras have already been removed and the cameras have been covered.

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"Today is a great day for the residents, businesses and visitors of Oak Brook that can now enjoy everything Oak Brook has to offer without fear of unnecessary ticketing or the increased traffic accidents which these red-light cameras have created," Oak Brook Village President Gopal Lalmalani said.

Oakbrook Terrace officials are also required to apply for a permit within 15 days to remove the cameras from the intersection, IDOT officials said.

Legislators had also tried to have the devices removed in recent years amid allegations they were installed under false pretenses.

On Friday, state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi issued a written statement in response to the announcement that the permit to operate the red-light cameras has been revoked.

"I appreciate that this justifiably vilified camera finally is going through the removal process," the Elmhurst Republican said. "But it is baffling that IDOT cannot acknowledge the real reason why this camera should have been scrutinized and removed long ago."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci recently pleaded not guilty to charges he received bribes and falsified tax returns in connection with the 2017 installation of those cameras.

Prosecutors allege Ragucci pocketed $3,500 a month from an individual with a "financial interest" in the company that installed the cameras. The payments started in early 2017 and continued until 2019, when federal agents raided his home and uncovered $60,000 in cash.

Court records indicate authorities believe some of Ragucci's payments were also made by individuals working for a company contracted by SafeSpeed LLC.

His federal indictment was part of a wide-ranging public corruption investigation involving multiple suburban mayors, several state legislators and former contractors for SafeSpeed LLC.

Company officials claim they were unaware of any wrongdoing.

In the first full year the cameras were operating, Oakbrook Terrace received more than $5.4 million in fines, according to the city's financial records from fiscal year 2019.

After paying SafeSpeed for equipment rental and covering other operational expenditures, the cameras netted the city roughly $3.2 million. That accounted for nearly a quarter of all the city's $13 million general fund revenue that year.

Its most recent audit from fiscal year 2021 shows the city received $1.65 million in fines.

Oak Brook officials said IDOT crash data from the intersection shows the number of crashes has increased there, from 23 in 2015 to 49 by 2019.

• Daily Herald staff writer Marni Pyke contributed to this report.

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