Smile! You’re on red-light camera!

Some call them “City of Portland ATMs”, set up to withdraw $245 from your wallet. But see why officials say these automatic camera systems now being installed in outer East Portland might just save your life …

No, it won’t be technician Tony May looking at you through the center window in this box at SE Washington St. at 103rd Avenue on March 3 – it will be a high-resolution film camera, snapping photos of red light running scofflaws.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When it comes to mangled vehicles being towed away from an intersection, this outer East Portland crossroads in the Gateway area didn’t win top prize – it’s in third place.

The intersection of SE Washington St at 103rd Avenue racked up 35 traffic smash-ups in the past four years – every one of them caused by a driver running a red light.

However, this outer East Portland intersection does have the honor of being the first to receive a brand new red light camera system that automatically snaps photos of vehicles running a red signal.

“Portland uses red light cameras because they are an important tool for improving traffic safety,” says Sergeant Dan Costello of the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division. “Angle crashes are more than two times more likely to result in serious injuries and fatalities than rear-end crashes.”

Traffic specialists say that when red light violations occur, they most often result in an angle or turning collision. These broadside – or T-bone – collisions are especially dangerous, because the sides of vehicles offer the least protection to their occupants.

It takes a large crane to lift and position the pole that will hold the new Gateway red light camera.

Caught on film
On February 27, we watch as foreman Jeff Yost of Electrical Construction Company, and his apprentice Jason Rickford, hoist the new camera-bearing pole and secure it to the sidewalk in front of the Old Chicago restaurant.

Soon, Tony May, an installation specialist from Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (ACS), the company contracted to install and operate Portland’s red light cameras, arrives to oversee the final installation of the box and hardware.

“This won’t be a video camera; we’ll be installing what we call a ‘wet film’ camera,” explains May. “A magazine holding enough high-resolution Fuji film to take at least 200 shots is attached to the camera. A technician comes and physically changes out the film magazines.”

How often the technician will have to change them depends on traffic, May adds. “Looking at the traffic right here, I think it’ll get quite a bit of business.”

The heavy steel box Jason Rickford and Tony May are mounting will contain a high-resolution film camera, and an industrial-strength photo flash that’s synchronized with the traffic control signal circuitry at the intersection.

A computerized, impartial witness
While Yost and Rickford wrestle the heavy camera pole – made from steel and aircraft-quality parts – into place, May points out parts of the system, including detection loops buried in the pavement, and photo flash units mounted on poles near the intersection.

We learn that the system activates based on the timing of the traffic light. When a vehicle runs a red light, the system takes two pictures.

Loops of wire, buried in these pavement cuts, determine a vehicle’s speed as it zips through a red light – and helps capture the moment on film.

The first photo snaps only if the traffic light is red and a vehicle crosses the detection loops located behind the wide, white “stop line”. Using a time-distance calculation, system’s computer determines when to take the second photo – one that shows the vehicle traveling through the middle of the intersection.

“The photo flash units [synchronized with the system] are powerful; they’ll light up the area at night,” May says. “And you’d be surprised at how clear the photos are. You can see drivers doing all kinds of things, like drinking a beer, while they are running the red light.”

Warnings issued through March 16
According to Cheryl E. Kuck at the Portland Office of Transportation, they’ll fire up the new camera on Monday, March 3. “During a test period that continues for two weeks, Portland Police will be checking the violation photos and mailing warning letters to vehicles and drivers that would have been issued a citation,” advises Kuck.

“Beginning Monday, March 17,” cautions Kuck, “motorists who run a red light at this intersection may receive a $245 fine. Each photograph is reviewed by a Police officer to ensure there is evidence of a violation before a citation is issued.”

Now that the construction crew is gone, you probably won’t notice the red light camera – unless you run the red light and see a brilliant flash as it takes your portrait.

Three more red light cameras to come
Outer East Portland’s #1 crash spot, SE Foster Road at 96th Avenue – with 53 red light crashes in four years – isn’t likely to see a red light camera soon; the project is “beginning the design phase”.

However, the second-place intersection at SE Stark Street at 102nd Avenue, with 44 red-light crashes logged – located  just a block north of the first installation – will have the unblinking eye of the law snapping scofflaw’s photos in just two months.

Also in the neighborhood, at SE Stark Street at 99th Avenue, because of 19 red light crashes, another system will be installed before summer.

“No matter how pressed you are for time, please stop for a red light,” says Portland’s traffic Commissioner, Sam Adams. “Gambling on saving a minute or two by running a red light could kill or seriously injure you or someone else. Red light running has very serious consequences.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Some call them “City of Portland ATMs”, set up to withdraw $245 from your wallet. But see why officials say these automatic camera systems now being installed in outer East Portland might just save your life …

No, it won’t be technician Tony May looking at you through the center window in this box at SE Washington St. at 103rd Avenue on March 3 – it will be a high-resolution film camera, snapping photos of red light running scofflaws.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When it comes to mangled vehicles being towed away from an intersection, this outer East Portland crossroads in the Gateway area didn’t win top prize – it’s in third place.

The intersection of SE Washington St at 103rd Avenue racked up 35 traffic smash-ups in the past four years – every one of them caused by a driver running a red light.

However, this outer East Portland intersection does have the honor of being the first to receive a brand new red light camera system that automatically snaps photos of vehicles running a red signal.

“Portland uses red light cameras because they are an important tool for improving traffic safety,” says Sergeant Dan Costello of the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division. “Angle crashes are more than two times more likely to result in serious injuries and fatalities than rear-end crashes.”

Traffic specialists say that when red light violations occur, they most often result in an angle or turning collision. These broadside – or T-bone – collisions are especially dangerous, because the sides of vehicles offer the least protection to their occupants.

It takes a large crane to lift and position the pole that will hold the new Gateway red light camera.

Caught on film
On February 27, we watch as foreman Jeff Yost of Electrical Construction Company, and his apprentice Jason Rickford, hoist the new camera-bearing pole and secure it to the sidewalk in front of the Old Chicago restaurant.

Soon, Tony May, an installation specialist from Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (ACS), the company contracted to install and operate Portland’s red light cameras, arrives to oversee the final installation of the box and hardware.

“This won’t be a video camera; we’ll be installing what we call a ‘wet film’ camera,” explains May. “A magazine holding enough high-resolution Fuji film to take at least 200 shots is attached to the camera. A technician comes and physically changes out the film magazines.”

How often the technician will have to change them depends on traffic, May adds. “Looking at the traffic right here, I think it’ll get quite a bit of business.”

The heavy steel box Jason Rickford and Tony May are mounting will contain a high-resolution film camera, and an industrial-strength photo flash that’s synchronized with the traffic control signal circuitry at the intersection.

A computerized, impartial witness
While Yost and Rickford wrestle the heavy camera pole – made from steel and aircraft-quality parts – into place, May points out parts of the system, including detection loops buried in the pavement, and photo flash units mounted on poles near the intersection.

We learn that the system activates based on the timing of the traffic light. When a vehicle runs a red light, the system takes two pictures.

Loops of wire, buried in these pavement cuts, determine a vehicle’s speed as it zips through a red light – and helps capture the moment on film.

The first photo snaps only if the traffic light is red and a vehicle crosses the detection loops located behind the wide, white “stop line”. Using a time-distance calculation, system’s computer determines when to take the second photo – one that shows the vehicle traveling through the middle of the intersection.

“The photo flash units [synchronized with the system] are powerful; they’ll light up the area at night,” May says. “And you’d be surprised at how clear the photos are. You can see drivers doing all kinds of things, like drinking a beer, while they are running the red light.”

Warnings issued through March 16
According to Cheryl E. Kuck at the Portland Office of Transportation, they’ll fire up the new camera on Monday, March 3. “During a test period that continues for two weeks, Portland Police will be checking the violation photos and mailing warning letters to vehicles and drivers that would have been issued a citation,” advises Kuck.

“Beginning Monday, March 17,” cautions Kuck, “motorists who run a red light at this intersection may receive a $245 fine. Each photograph is reviewed by a Police officer to ensure there is evidence of a violation before a citation is issued.”

Now that the construction crew is gone, you probably won’t notice the red light camera – unless you run the red light and see a brilliant flash as it takes your portrait.

Three more red light cameras to come
Outer East Portland’s #1 crash spot, SE Foster Road at 96th Avenue – with 53 red light crashes in four years – isn’t likely to see a red light camera soon; the project is “beginning the design phase”.

However, the second-place intersection at SE Stark Street at 102nd Avenue, with 44 red-light crashes logged – located  just a block north of the first installation – will have the unblinking eye of the law snapping scofflaw’s photos in just two months.

Also in the neighborhood, at SE Stark Street at 99th Avenue, because of 19 red light crashes, another system will be installed before summer.

“No matter how pressed you are for time, please stop for a red light,” says Portland’s traffic Commissioner, Sam Adams. “Gambling on saving a minute or two by running a red light could kill or seriously injure you or someone else. Red light running has very serious consequences.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service


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