By Betsy Dolan
Eleven Sugar Land residents will comprise an independent traffic safety task force that will study the City’s red light camera program. The Sugar Land City Council approved the formation of the task force June 18. Members are expected to be appointed on July 16.
The group will work for about 120 days to develop a recommendation that could include continuing the program in its current form, modifying the program or eliminating it.
According to the City, the task force will conduct its meetings in accordance with the Open Meetings Act and provide an opportunity for extensive public input.
“The task force will identify a meeting schedule and any other items needed to accomplish its work,” said City Manager Allen Bogard. “At the request of the task force, we will dedicate any city resources they determine necessary to ensure members have what they need to provide an independent recommendation.”
The creation of the task force follows a report to City Council on June 4 that determined a petition to prohibit the enforcement of Sugar Land’s red cameras was invalid because the petition did not meet the requirements of City Charter.
H.F. Van Der Grinten and Ray Patel, who launched the petition drive, say the task force should have been formed years ago.
“Up until now the City has repeatedly ignored numerous recommendations to correct abuses in the red light camera system. The task force is being proposed to keep the camera revenue flowing.” Van Der Grinten wrote in a press release June 5.
Byron Schirmbeck, an attorney with Texas Campaign For Liberty, who led a similar petition drive in Baytown several years ago, has joined the effort in Sugar Land to ban the cameras. He says American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which has a contract with Sugar Land to operate and maintain the red light cameras, is normally aggressive in fighting petition drives that call for a ban on the cameras.
“In every petition effort so far where ATS cameras are involved they come out early and set up a group to fight the petition and tell the city council they shouldn’t accept the petition,” Schirmbeck said. “ATS was strangely quiet throughout this petition process and it makes sense since the city is doing the dirty work for them in denying their vote.”
The City of Sugar Land maintains the implementation of red light cameras in Sugar Land resulted in a 58 percent reduction in accidents at targeted intersections from 2009-2012.
Red light cameras were installed in 2008 to expand the utilization of technology to assist the city in achieving its goal of being one of the safest cities in the country. The program is intended to improve the safety of high-volume intersections in the city.
Sugar Land currently utilizes red light cameras at four intersections – U.S. Highway 59 at Highway 6, U.S. Highway 90A at Dairy Ashford, Eldridge Road at West Airport Boulevard and Highway 6 at Lexington Boulevard.