The red light camera at Harlem and Lake. | David Pierini/staff photographer

After a delay of nearly two years, red-light cameras are returning to River Forest. Jeff Loster, director of public works and development services, said the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) gave the officials the green light on April 9 to reinstall three red-light cameras, one at Harlem and North avenues and the other two at Lake Street and Harlem Avenue. 

River Forest approved a contract in June 2020 with Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions doing business as Verra Mobility, replacing SafeSpeed as the village’s red light camera operator.

In February 2020, local officials announced their intent to decline to renew River Forest’s contract with SafeSpeed and issue a request for proposals from other vendors amid a federal corruption probe involving state and suburban politicians and a former SafeSpeed official, allowing the contract to expire July 1, 2020. The village originally contracted with SafeSpeed in 2011.

Loster said officials have been working with IDOT “over the last several months” regarding the change in vendor for River Forest’s red light cameras. Staff members will be working with the engineering consultant Hampton, Lenzini and Renwick Inc. and Verra Mobility to make the necessary modifications at both camera locations as approved by IDOT, he added. Loster said when the cameras will be operational is still to be determined.

He said officials are unable to explain the length of time it’s taken to implement the change, which was estimated in 2020 at 30 to 45 days, but the village was not responsible for the delay.

“I don’t know how long it took to get the original cameras up, so I don’t have much context,” Loster said. “I know IDOT is working on creating a new policy relative to red-light cameras and even though it is not something that was applied to our ‘vendor transfer,’ it may have been a factor.

“At the end of the day it is something that was subject to IDOT review, so village staff and our consultants made sure we were timely with our responses and the information that was requested of us, but the other side of the equation is obviously not within our control.

“That said, we certainly did not anticipate it taking as long as it did.”

After dealing with budget shortfalls in the past two years related to the pandemic, officials will likely appreciate the renewed revenue stream from the red-light cameras.

Over the final five years of its contract with SafeSpeed, River Forest collected more than $4 million in red-light camera fines, according to village budget documents.

In addition, the new contract could provide more revenue than was received under SafeSpeed.

Verra Mobility charges a flat rate per system per month as opposed to taking a per ticket percentage of each fine, unlike SafeSpeed or the other two firms that submitted proposals in 2020, RedSpeed and Gatso.

According to figures provided in 2020, assuming 18,500 tickets are issued per year, village revenue would be $1,755,200, which is almost $400,000 more than it would have been with RedSpeed or Gatso.

Fines for red-light camera violations are set at $100 per ticket by the state. Under the contract with Verra Mobility, the village will collect the full amount. Under SafeSpeed, River Forest received $60 from each ticket. Under the other proposals, the village would have received $64.06 per ticket from RedSpeed and $72 per ticket from Gatso.

According to the website of Verra Mobility, the firm works operates more than 4,000 red-light, speed and school bus stop arm safety cameras in more than 200 jurisdictions across North America.

Join the discussion on social media!