No more red-light cameras on Route 83 in Oakbrook Terrace, judge rules

Oakbrook Terrace can't have its red-light cameras at Route 83 and 22nd Street anymore, a DuPage County judge has ruled.

But the city is appealing that ruling.

"Our communities' safety at home, at work, or at play and while traveling throughout our region is our top priority. We are deeply disappointed in the ruling, which will endanger our community and those that visit the region," Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Paul Esposito said Monday in a written statement. "Without red-light cameras, we will have to resort to other tools in combating the over 230,000 drivers who fail to stop at that intersection."

Judge Craig Belford ruled, on May 26, that the Illinois Department of Transportation has the right to revoke the permit it gave for the cameras in 2017. They are on the Oakbrook Terrace side of the busy intersection, across from Oakbrook Center mall.

Belford wrote that IDOT had the right to issue the permit with contingencies and - if those contingencies were not met - to revoke it. The city turned the cameras off that day.

One of those contingencies was that the city had to compile reports about the camera system one year after the cameras were installed and then three years after that. The one-year report was written two years late, and the city has not made the second report, Belford wrote. That second analysis was due in July 2021.

The city contends it did the report and published it in June 2022.

The red-light cameras document vehicles that disobey red traffic lights. Images of the vehicles' license plates are recorded, and then $100 tickets are issued.

The city reports that 236,177 tickets were issued between Aug. 21, 2017 - when the cameras were turned on - and May 3, 2022. Of those, 2,945 were dismissed.

Oakbrook Terrace argued that IDOT could regulate only how the cameras were installed because the camera equipment is on the state's rights of way. It also argued it could not write the reports because it needed data from IDOT, but IDOT had not compiled 2021 crash data, even by May 2022.

IDOT is wrong in seeking removal, Esposito said, and the city's reports met statutory requirements on the "safety effectiveness" of the cameras.

Neighboring Oak Brook had protested the cameras, contending that they targeted people shopping at the mall and caused an increase in crashes. Oak Brook sued Oakbrook Terrace but later dropped it.

"The Village of Oak Brook commends IDOT for reviewing this matter and revoking the red-light camera operating permit in 2022 as well as its defense of the revocation in court," Oak Brook Village President Laurence Herman said in a written statement. "Crash data has consistently demonstrated that these cameras made the intersection substantially less safe, illustrating that the camera installation was always about revenue generation for Oakbrook Terrace and not about public safety.

"It is also well-documented that the cameras were installed as a result of extensive corruption," said Herman, referring to how former Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci and former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to bribery in connection with the installation of the cameras.

In 2022, Ragucci admitted taking at least $88,500 to ensure the city renewed its contract with SafeSpeed LLC, the camera company. The payments came from someone with a financial interest in the company and from employees of a contractor SafeSpeed used. The company denies knowing about the payments and has said the money did not come from it.

A 2018 report about the city's finances showed it collected $5.4 million in fines, netting $3.2 million after expenses.

On Monday, Belford denied a request from Oakbrook Terrace to stay the enforcement of his order while it appeals the case.

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