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Red light, speed zone cameras generate $3.8M for Federal Way

2019 annual report shows 36,789 citations issued for both red light cameras and school zone speed areas throughout the city.

Your traffic infractions helped generate more than $3.8 million for the City of Federal Way last year, according to the 2019 annual report.

Federal Way’s Red Light/School Zone Speed Photo Enforcement (RLPE) 2019 Annual Report, published to the city website on June 8, shows the intersections and areas throughout the city with the most violations.

Federal Way’s first four red light photo cameras went active in 2008.

Today, there are 14 cameras at three intersections and four school zones. Six cameras capture red light violations, and eight cameras target school zone speeders. A photo ticket can cost about $124, and school zone speed violations range from $210 (less than 11 mph over limit) to $250 (11 mph or more over the limit).

Key intersections for the dreaded flash of a traffic camera include S. 312th Street and Pacific Highway S.; S. 320th Street and Pacific Highway S.; and S. 348th Street and Enchanted Parkway S. (Hwy 18).

Federal Way pays $4,750 per month per camera to Arizona-based Verra Mobility to cover processing. That total cost to the city, per month, is about $53,000.

According to the city’s 2019/2020 adopted budget, the RLPE/School Zone Speed Enforcement areas generated $3,802,000 in fines and penalties to the Traffic Safety Fund and $13,500 in miscellaneous interest fees for a total of $3,815,500.

The traffic safety finances also fund several positions for the Federal Way Police Department, including one lieutenant, eight police officers and four city traffic positions.

In total, there were 36,789 citations issued for both red light cameras and school zone speed areas throughout the city.

Of those, there were 25,175 RLPE citations issued and 11,614 School Zone Speed Enforcement citations.

The specific camera approach locations and citation issuance data are as follows:

• Southbound Pacific Highway S. and S. 312th Street cameras administered 3,815 citations out of 3,815 violations total, and saw a total of 26 collisions.

• At Federal Way’s busiest intersection of S. 320th Street and Pacific Highway S., there were 12,565 violations total and 27 collisions last year. The westbound camera provided 2,108 citations and the northbound camera captured 3,490 citations. The southbound camera provided 6,967 citations.

• The most collisions occurred at S. 348th Street and Enchanted Parkway S. with 29 total, an intersection where 7,783 citations were issued via the eastbound camera and 1,012 citations were issued via the southbound camera (SB 16th Avenue S. at S. 348th Street) of 8,795 violations in total.

In the city, three school zones are equipped with radar. The three school zones have been equipped with radar/LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) camera systems to monitor and document traffic speeds and patterns, the report states. The schools are Twin Lakes Elementary, Panther Lake Elementary and Saghalie Middle School. In 2019, all three sites issued a combined total of 11,614 tickets.

The specific camera approach locations and citation issuance data are as follows:

• SW 320th Street at Twin Lakes: 3,039 violations, including 1,233 tickets from the eastbound camera and 1,806 tickets from the westbound camera.

• 1st Avenue S. at Panther Lake: 3,435 violations, including 1,395 tickets from the northbound camera and 2,040 tickets from the southbound camera.

• 21st Avenue SW at Saghalie: 5,140 violations for the four cameras, including 2,417 from the northbound camera and 1,254 from the southbound camera. For the SW Campus Drive cameras, there were 736 citations from the eastbound camera and 733 from the westbound camera.

In the city’s budget, the traffic safety funds (page D-11) are used to support prevention, education and enforcement efforts related to traffic safety within Federal Way.

The Traffic Safety funds are strictly generated through the city’s cameras, said Ade Ariwoola, finance director for the city. Citations that go to court or are police-direct tickets are reported either in the court or police department.

From 2019 to 2020, the city is carrying forward a deficit in traffic safety funds, which means, “we had about $190,000 less than we planned to have,” Ariwoola said.

Due to the statewide shutdown earlier this spring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people kept off the road from March through June, which led to a significant reduction in the city’s traffic revenue, Ariwoola said.

At the July 7 city council meeting, Ariwoola said the past few months of lockdown have led to a possible revenue loss of $1 million.

“We will be short by about one million,” he said. “What will carry us through the end of the year in traffic safety is the reserve.”

The city maintains a $1.2 million reserve for emergency temporary revenue shortfall situations regarding the traffic safety fund.

In next year’s budget for 2021, the city will no longer have the reserve fund and will have three years to make it up, Ariwoola said.

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