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Renton City Council Unanimously Opposes Initiative 985

October 8, 2008

For more information contact:

Marty Wine, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, 425-430-6526
Preeti Shridhar, Communications Director, 425-430-6569

RENTON: On Monday, October 6, 2008, the Renton City Council voted unanimously to oppose Initiative 985 (I-985). This initiative redirects state funding, opens high-occupancy vehicle lanes to all traffic during specified hours, and dedicates certain taxes, fines, tolls and other revenues such as those received from photo enforcement programs to traffic-flow purposes. Introduced by Tim Eyman, I-985 is on this November's ballot. A public meeting was held where parties from both sides of the issue were invited to attend and provide testimony for the Council to consider.

As part of the city’s photo enforcement program, Renton has recently installed cameras at busy intersections to improve traffic safety by citing drivers who run red lights or speed in school zones. In 2007, Renton saw 1,225 traffic collisions, 38% of which involved injuries (472 collisions with injuries and 648 actual injuries. Three of these collisions resulted in fatalities. The city selected the camera installation locations carefully, targeting the most unsafe areas to reduce red light running and speeding. Warnings were issued to violators for a month prior to enforcement to let motorists know about the cameras and encourage safe driving.  Since the installation of the photo enforcement cameras in June 2008, the city has issued 4,503 citations.

After paying the costs related to the program including the cost of installing the cameras, law enforcement, court and other costs, the city plans to use funds from this program to enhance neighborhood traffic calming efforts locally in Renton.  If approved, I-985 would take the all of the revenues that cities generate from these red-light-camera tickets and speed zone cameras and send it to a statewide transportation fund. These camera systems are installed at busy intersections in an attempt to improve traffic safety by catching drivers who run red lights or speed in school zones. They help prevent deaths and serious injuries caused by people running red lights, and encourage people to obey the speed limit in school zones to protect children’s safety. If the initiative is approved Renton will generate photo-radar enforcement revenues at the local level and send that money to the state, with no assurance it will ever be re-invested in the Renton community. Renton will be forced to eliminate the photo enforcement program.

“At McKnight Middle School, we have seen 67% of the vehicles exceed the 20 miles per hour speed zone, when the children are being dropped-off at school,” said Renton City Council President Marcie Palmer.  “When I am visiting our schools, parents come to me every day and want to know when we’ll be installing additional cameras to make our schools and neighborhoods safe.”

“Our traffic cameras are the response to the concerns from our citizens who want to see motorists slow down, watch for pedestrian traffic and keep our neighborhoods and streets safe,” said Councilmember Greg Taylor. “Public safety is the primary reason for the program and we are going to dedicate any excess revenues that the program generates to public safety-from traffic calming devices to police traffic enforcement in our neighborhoods.”

I-985 also restricts carpool lanes to just three hours each morning and afternoon. Rush hour in Renton goes well past these hours. This initiative would significantly add to congestion and 
would reduce the speed of buses, vanpools and carpools, forcing more single drivers back onto the roads and increasing commute times.

“The data indicates that we have 10 hours of congestion on I-405,” said Councilmember Randy Corman. “Opening the HOV lanes will only re-shape the “parking lot” on the freeway since during those hours, a majority of the traffic is trying to exit to SR-167.”

The potential impacts of Initiative 985 go beyond the city’s photo enforcement program. Over the next five years, it would take more than $600 million from the state’s general fund that pays for schools and law enforcement.  It would force standardized traffic rules in local areas that make no sense.  Local taxpayers would be also forced to spend more on transportation projects, while getting less for their money. 

Click for more information on the city’s photo enforcement program.