By Devin Rose
Speedy drivers should watch out this week if they're traveling through the River Forest-controlled portions of two Harlem Avenue intersections.
The red light cameras approved by the village board more than a year ago are up and running as of Jan. 15, said River Forest Police Chief Greg Weiss. But whether or not a motorist zooming through an affected intersection will earn a citation depends on the direction of travel.
The camera installed at the intersection of Harlem and North avenues—which is the meeting point of River Forest, Oak Park, Chicago and Elmwood Park—affects all eastbound drivers on North Avenue. Weiss said it doesn't matter if the eastbound driver is going straight into Oak Park or turning left or right onto Harlem Avenue. If the driver goes through that light — which is facing west — when it's red in any of those four lanes, they fall under River Forest's jurisdiction.
There are sensors on the ground in all the lanes that get tripped when the streetlight turns red, Weiss said. The camera will capture about 15 seconds of video and the car's license plate number to document the potential violation. The video is then reviewed by Safe Speed, the vendor that River Forest entered into a two-year agreement with in October 2011.
If the vendor determines the vehicle is not in the wrong, like a funeral procession or a police car, they can dismiss the incident. But if they believe a violation occurred, Safe Speed sends the footage to River Forest to review. River Forest officials can then decide within 10 days whether to issue the $100 ticket, Weiss said.
The second camera affects southbound vehicles on Harlem Avenue at Lake Street. Drivers going straight in the two center lanes, turning left into Oak Park or right into River Forest while the light is red could get ticketed.
Weiss said those who would like to contest tickets they receive in the mail can go to an adjudication hearing at River Forest Village Hall.
The two-year term with Safe Speed begins when the first violation is issued, and there will be an option for River Forest to renew the agreement for one year. Safe Speed conducted a trial period after installation to make sure the sensors were synched with the traffic lights.
The cameras each cost $22,908 and will be covered by revenue from violations within the first year. Costs may be financed over 12 months with payment deducted in 12 equal installments from violation fine payments made to the village.
The contractor will get monthly fees from a combination of maintenance, repair and violation processing per system, and payment processing fees. Safe Speed will withhold a portion of the revenue to cover those fees, and the village will receive anything left over. If the system doesn't produce enough revenue in a given month, the village won't have to pay.