The public shouldn’t expect a rush of new speeding tickets over the next few months as a direct result of new highway cameras in provincial construction zones. But it’s true more cameras and eyes will be on local roadways.
Speaking with The Telegram, Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker said the cameras are a pilot project. That pilot is focused on testing the capabilities of different companies, to figure out what information would be successfully gathered under each potential contractor, and exactly how related data would be collected, stored and presented as needed.
A statement from the department on Tuesday said three contracts worth a total of about $81,000 had been awarded for the pilot, to Shanahan’s Investigation and Security, Redflex Traffic Systems and Sensys Gatso Group. The companies responded to a request for proposals issued by the provincial government in June.
“We’re not going to be issuing speeding tickets coming right off of the camera itself, but if we find situations this year where there’s something that happens that’s erratic, or something that happens that’s totally unacceptable, we can work with the RCMP. The RCMP and RNC have told us they will be able to use this information in an investigation,” Crocker said on the question of use for enforcement this year.
The highway camera pilot program is getting underway well into the construction season, but the minister said there’s still plenty of time to get useful return from the testing. Provincial paving work, for example, is likely to continue through October.
“Right now, as we speak, we have, I think the count was 37 active (road work) projects. We’re still awarding tenders. We had a tender closed yesterday, we have more tenders closing next week. We have substantial work to do around the Team Gushue (Highway) Extension, we have substantial work left to do on the Avalon, the Northeast coast, the Northern Peninsula — so we have quite a bit of construction season ahead of us,” he said.
“Really this is all about safety,” he said, emphasizing the point, making reference to the death of Tom Gardiner in January, who was struck by a vehicle and killed while working as a flag person on Route 80, between Heart’s Content and Old Perlican.
He said there have been complaints before and since, both from inside and outside of the department, about drivers breaking the law in construction zones.
The province has ventured down the road of highway cameras for highway enforcement in the past, under Service NL. There, it was in a handful of weigh-in-motion systems targeting commercial vehicles, for enforcing vehicle-specific regulations.
But there were issues with vehicles avoiding camera sites and a final determination the systems could not be used for direct ticketing due to variables in the data being collected. In 2013, the systems started to be used primarily to gather vehicle counts for areas where they were placed and a better understanding of vehicle speeds.
The new pilot project is focused at enforcement of all vehicle types, in different areas — the minister wouldn’t pinpoint exactly where the testing would take place.
Crocker said part of the pilot will be to determine the potential for use in regular enforcement in 2019, adding any decision for regular use for that purpose would only come after consultations with police and the Justice department.