This story was corrected on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. An explanation follows.
Across the county, portable speed cameras are popping in and out of residents’ daily commutes as county officials determine the best way to enforce the speed limit.
In late August, cameras housed in white metal boxes were installed in “corridors,” Montgomery County police spokeswoman Lucille Baur said, where police have deemed speed enforcement necessary. The 66 corridors are often stretches of road near public schools.
Since there are only 20 cameras, they are often moved to new locations to cover the whole county.
“We try to make the moves convenient, quite frankly, and efficient,” said Dan McNickle, operations supervisor for the county’s Automatic Traffic Enforcement Unit.
According to McNickle, speed cameras in school zones move often.
“We try to move those out of a school district so they can work on a weekend,” he said.
McNickle added that some cameras that are moved out of a school zone on the weekend have returned to the same location on weekdays. About half a dozen cameras are usually moved on weekends, he said.
McNickle said his team meets weekly to talk about daily reports from the portable speed cameras.
Baur said drivers’ speeds have decreased near the sites of portable and permanent speed cameras. The last formal evaluation of the speed camera program was conducted in 2009 by the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight. The report showed that the number of collisions involving injuries or fatalities dropped by 39 percent during the first year of the permanent speed cameras, which were installed in 2007.
According to McNickle, there are still a few problem areas. A speed camera on Olney-Laytonsville Road catches 100 speeders going each way every day, he said, and a camera at Jones Bridge Road also catches multiple drivers going over the speed limit.
Baur said the revenue from speed tickets exceeds the cost of maintaining the speed cameras. By law, the excess revenue must go to public safety and pedestrian safety initiatives, she said.
A few residents have called to request that a camera be placed at a specific position, but McNickle said it’s not that easy, citing county restraints and staff resources.
“We have to go through a whole process before we just plop one down,” he said.
McNickle said he hears from county residents who are in favor of and against the cameras.
“For all the people that hate them and don’t want speeding tickets, there are more people that support it and want cameras,” he said.
Tina Slater, president of the Montgomery County-based Action Committee for Transit, said her organization is most concerned about pedestrian safety.
“We definitely support speed cameras because anything that would slow down car traffic would be a safety improvement for pedestrians,” Slater said.
For a map of the portable speed camera corridors, visit www.gazette.net.
Riders and drivers of Montgomery County: Stuck in congestion on your morning commute? Seeing major delays on the Red Line? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: The story mischaracterized the impact of the speed cameras. This version also provides more information about collision data collected by the county.