As the Chicago City Council's traffic committee prepares to vote on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's speed camera plan Wednesday, some alderman have begun to question whether speed bumps, traffic circles and and other existing, strategically-placed traffic controls aren't a sufficient deterrent to unsafe driving.
Mayor Emanuel has been aggressively campaigning for the city to install hundreds of cameras that will record and automatically ticket drivers traveling above the speed limit in "safety zones." Although Gov. Pat Quinn signed off on the measure in February, aldermen have been pushing back, asking Emanuel to limit the hours the cameras operate and cut their numbers amid overwhelming public disapproval for the plan.
The council's committee on pedestrian and traffic safety is poised to draft and vote on their recommendations Wednesday afternoon, at which point the full city council will approve or deny the current plan, ABC Chicago reports. The measure will not go into effect until aldermen have signed off.
A snag in the plan's progress could emerge from a recent focus on existing speed-control infrastructure. According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, the city has installed more than 10,000 speed humps, 450 culs-de-sac, 400 traffic circles and 250 "bump-out" curbs since 2005 alone in many of the safety zones the mayor is targeting.
“With the 10,000 speed humps, they were obviously spending money on it, so it has to be working. What I said to them was, show me that none of these things have worked around schools and parks and maybe you have an argument for speed cameras,” Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), who has been a vocal opponent of the cameras, told the Sun-Times.
Critics call the cameras purely a revenue-generating measure, and some aldermen have expressed concern that they could become ad-hoc police cameras.
Under the state authorization, the law currently fines drivers up to $50 for driving 6 to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, with fines of up to $100 for traveling at higher speeds, CBS Chicago reports. A total of 360 cameras could be placed within 1/8 of a mile of schools, and Emanuel agreed to scale back operating hours to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Emanuel and supporters of the plan argue that the goal is to reduce accidents and increase public safety, and the mayor has promised that revenue will be directed towards school programming, not to help balance the city's massive deficit.
See more coverage in advance of the council committee's vote: