SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — New traffic enforcement cameras meant to improve safety at busy intersections, schools and work zones could be coming to Suffolk around as early as next month.
Robert Lewis, the city’s director of public works, shared proposed locations for the cameras at last week’s council meeting, and council is expected to vote on an ordinance to approve the cameras at their next meeting on March 15.
“People have been hollering about safety, we’re trying to help and this is moving forward,” Lewis said at Wednesday’s presentation, which came nearly a year after council was first briefed about the issue.
Suffolk would join several other local cities in recently approving automated enforcement. Chesapeake installed school zone cameras in 2022, and Hampton just recently approved red light enforcement near the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.
Suffolk’s program is meant to be “revenue neutral,” Lewis says, and not a cash cow for the city. The contracted private company will pay for the installation and upkeep of the cameras, and charge a flat fee that is made up with revenue from violators. Virginia doesn’t allow a private entity’s compensation to be tied to the number of violations, unlike some other states.
If there is additional revenue, Lewis says that would go to the city for roadway safety projects.
Mayor Mike Duman said the cameras were “a long time coming,” adding they will not only improve safety on the roads, but allow police officers who would’ve been running traffic to be relocated as needed.
Through the program, tickets would be issued for those who:
- Run red lights
- Speed in a school zone
- Speed in a work zone
- Pass a stopped school bus that has its lights on and stop arm extended
Now signage alerting drivers to the cameras (required by law) will be adding, and a police officer is still required to manually approve each violation captured via camera. The minimum speed required for a ticket at both the work and school zones would also be at least 10 mph over the posted limit.
“It’s not we’re trying to catch somebody going two to three miles per hour over, we’re looking for the flagrant violators out there,” Lewis said.
He suggested work zone cameras at places such as Holland Road (two cameras recommended) and at Shoulders Hill Road at Bridge Road, with a possible camera that would rotate with different city roadway maintenance projects.
Lewis says all school zones in the city (21 public and three private schools) are being evaluated for cameras, but some may not need enforcement due to their location (Lewis listed Southwestern Elementary as an example).
All Suffolk Public School buses are also being evaluated for cameras.
With the red light cameras at intersections, state code allows for Suffolk to have up to nine operating at one time (1 per 10,000 residents). Each location has to undergo an intensive traffic safety study through VDOT, including making sure the clearance time for yellow lights meet The Institute of Transportation Engineers’ recommendation, Lewis says.
Here are the first five red light camera locations proposed:
- Holland Road at west end of Suffolk bypass
- Harbour View Blvd. at Bridge Road
- College Drive at Bridge Road
- Shoulders Hill Road at Bridge Road (after construction)
- Holland Road at Kenyon Road (after construction)
Lewis says those locations were on the top of list for violations when consulted by the police department and city staff. And while Suffolk can only have to nine cameras operating at one time, city officials are preparing to possibly have up six to seven additional locations.
“And we can rotate the cameras around so they’re not necessarily at the same spot all the time,” Lewis said.
Councilman Leroy Bennett suggested adding cameras at Nansemond Parkway and Portsmouth Boulevard, where he says he sees people on average driving over the 45 mph posted limit.
So when will we see the cameras? Lewis says some could be rolled out within 30 days of council’s approval of the ordinance on March 15, and the goal is to have cameras on school buses by the start of the 2023-24 school year.