Maryland Taps Technology to Nab Red-Light Runners

Maryland Taps Technology to Nab Red-Light Runners

By Andrea Novotny
Staff Writer

Maryland's Howard County has awarded contracts to Electronic Data Systems Corp., Plano, Texas, and LeMarquis International Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., to design and install an automated system to catch red-light runners and improve traffic safety.

The system, which will be used at 15 high-risk intersections, should be running by February, said Wayne Porter, account executive for EDS' government services group. Plans call for five additional cameras to be installed at other high-risk intersections by July 1, officials said.

"EDS is getting calls from a lot of localities in Delaware, North Carolina, California and Virginia, that are interested in red-light monitoring systems," Porter said. "It's definitely a growing market and the potential for EDS is very good."

Other vendors of red-light photo technology are privately held American Traffic Systems, Phoenix, and United States Public Technologies, San Diego.

For the Maryland county system, EDS will serve as prime under a one-year contract that contains options for another five years. EDS will provide office processing of citations for the system. The cost of the system will be paid by violator fines, said Porter.

Under a separate contract with the county, LeMarquis will supply and install 20 cameras as well as provide film and processing. CSW L.C., Boca Raton, Fla., and Mulvihill Electrical Contracting Corp., New York, will provide maintenance and related services as subcontractors to LeMarquis.

Howard County is Maryland's first jurisdiction to use the red-light photo monitoring system, Porter said. It features high-
tech cameras mounted on poles above intersections that are triggered when vehicles pass through the intersection after the light turns red. The system will photograph the vehicle and license plate and then produce a violation notice. The notice will be processed and sent to the Howard County Police Department for review. If department officials determine a violation has occurred, a $75 ticket and a copy of the photographic evidence will be mailed to the vehicle's owner.

Payment to EDS and LeMarquis for their performance-based fees will be determined by a sliding scale based on the number of citations the county issues, Porter said. In general, EDS will collect less than $20 per ticket issued, he said.

Howard County's police department worked with the county's Bureau of Traffic Engineering to conduct a pilot program from October 1996 through April 1997 to test the effectiveness of the technology under a $60,000 grant funded by the Federal Highway Administration.

The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation last April approving the use of the automated red light technology. The law took effect in October. In the past, police officers had to identify the driver of the vehicle and cite the driver for a red-light violation. Under the new law, a police officer is able to identify the vehicle's owner and hold the owner responsible for a red-light violation. If an offense has occurred, the vehicle's owner receives a civil violation - not a moving violation, which must be observed by an officer.

In the last four years, the number of states passing laws enabling the use of red-light photo systems has jumped to about five, said Schneider.

The Maryland job marks EDS' second red-light project. In 1993, the company signed an $8 million contract with New York City to serve as prime contractor for a system that uses 18 cameras. Last month, EDS signed a $11.3 million contract to expand that city's system to 30 cameras, said Eric Schneider, EDS program manager. Plans call for the project to be completed this spring, he said.

The New York City red-light system has produced more than $23 million in revenue from traffic fines for the city, said Paul Stanton, assistant commissioner for New York City.

As states push for ways to improve traffic safety, red-light photo systems are emerging as a viable technology, analysts said. European and Australian companies have provided their countries with red-light photo technology for decades, industry officials said.

"There is a need in this country for advanced and automated traffic enforcement ... and this technology allows law enforcement to do much more with the resources they have," said Adam Tuton, vice president of ATS. "It's
a promising industry. ... There is solid potential for growth."

Total state and local public sector spending on public safety information technology is approximately $2.5 billion a year and growing annually in excess of 15 percent, said Thomas Davies, vice president of state and local at Federal Sources Inc., McLean, Va.

Lockheed Martin Information Management Systems, a division of Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp., is partnering with USPT on two upcoming projects. The companies recently bid on projects in Denver and Arlington, Va., said Terry Lynam, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin IMS.

According to Lynam, Lockheed Martin would issue violation notices and perform collections and processing; USPT would provide the equipment for the system. Awards for those systems are expected by March, he said.

Last August, the two companies signed a three-year contract with the city of Alexandria, Va., valued at $315,000 annually to alternate one red light traffic camera among three accident-prone intersections, Lynam said.

EDS' red-light monitoring system features high-tech cameras mounted on poles above intersections that are triggered when vehicles pass through the intersection after the light turns red. The system photographs the vehicle and license plate to produce a violation notice.

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