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Denver to get more red light cameras, just not where city leaders necessarily want them

Posted: 9:00 PM, Dec 19, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-19 23:00:51-05
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DENVER -- More red light cameras are coming to Denver, just not where city leaders necessarily believe they should be. The Colorado Department of Transportation rejected the City of Denver’s request to place red light cameras on Federal Boulevard and Colfax Avenue.

If you’re catching the bus every day like Nicholas Hernandez, navigating major streets like Federal Blvd. proves tricky.

“They blow red lights, yellow lights, just like this right here. People speeding across the intersections, they don’t give a damn,” said Hernandez. “If we had a camera on this intersection dude, they would catch so many people speeding and doing illegal crossing of the intersection.”

City Councilman Paul Lopez is worried CDOT and the city are missing opportunities to protect more people, especially from pedestrian accidents. He believes intersections like Federal Blvd. at 14th should be studied and considered as a location for red light cameras.

Instead, Denver will get new cameras at three new intersections:

  • East 13th Avenue and Lincoln Street
  • West Alameda Avenue and South Santa Fe Drive
  • East 18th Avenue and Lincoln Street

It’s part of the $1.2m contract the city has renewed to expand the red light camera system and add a new van to monitor speeds and ticket offenders. The city can install cameras on local streets but needs permission to do so on state roads like Federal and Colfax.

CDOT does not seem to agree about the effectiveness or need for red light cameras at three intersections it denied. CDOT spokeswoman Tamara Rollison said sometimes red light cameras can increase accidents at intersections specifically prone to rear-end accidents, but can improve safety at intersections with a high occurrence of broad-side (T-bone) crashes.

“People tend to drive fast, then they will slow down quickly when they see a red light camera and that can cause a rear-end accident,” said Rollison.

Denver7 requested the number of accidents at the three proposed intersections, which all fall under CDOT’s jurisdiction. Spanning from the summer of 2012 to the summer of 2017:

  • Federal and Alameda: 50 rear-end crashes and 5 broadside crashes
  • Colfax and Colorado: 16 rear-end crashes and 5 broadside crashes
  • Colfax and Monaco: Several more broadside crashes than any other intersection in the area

Rollison told Denver7 at both intersections of Federal and Alameda and Colfax at Colorado, red light cameras would create more rear-end accidents. At Colfax and Monaco, it’s possible a red light camera could reduce crashes. But there were a number of actions CDOT requested first before the city re-submitted the request, including installing retroreflective back plates, installing a third signal on the approach of the first signal, cutting back vegetation and revisiting signal timing, to name a few.

CDOT has not found data to suggest red-light cameras reduce pedestrian-related crashes, a specific worry that Councilman Paul Lopez had about streets like Federal.

“There are people who are running to get to work, to catch the bus. There are folks just trying to cross the street. We have to protect pedestrians as well,” said Lopez. “I think as a technology (red light cameras), that no matter where you put it in the city, it will change behavior. Nobody wants to get a ticket for running a red light and at the same time nobody is going to get hit by a car.”

Rollison told Denver7 the department had not received a request for red light cameras at Federal Blvd. at 14th. She sent Denver7 the following statement about that specific intersection:

"CDOT is working with Denver on improving pedestrian safety at that intersection. We are working together on short- and long-term safety improvements, including improving the geometry of the intersection, signage, pavement markings and other traffic engineering solutions that would make that intersection safer for pedestrians. What is important is that the right solution is implemented."