Getting around: Surprise sidetracks speed camera bill

"If we legislate something that is 24/7 and the city uses cameras, we have to all be in sync," Morrison said, adding that she was optimistic the legislation will be in play during the fall veto session.

The City of Chicago's position on the legislation is "neutral,'' City Hall spokesman Bill McCaffrey said.

For its part, American Traffic Solutions does not oppose the provision in the legislation extending the hours of the school zone speed limit and the company has done "nothing in any way, shape or form to obstruct the passage of that bill," said Dennis Culloton, a Chicago consultant for the firm.

Culloton said the company advocates clarifying a long-standing quirk in state law that requires the presence of children in order to enforce school zones. That legal provision would force American Traffic Solutions cameras to capture images of children in addition to the speeding vehicle and its license plate in order to charge motorists with violating school zone limits.

Enforcement would be less complicated if the speed camera vendor were not required to show a picture of a child for every violation. The city has estimated speed-camera tickets could total $30 million a year.

Curry suggested revising the language to eliminate the requirement of a child being present, Culloton said.

Burke said it was unfortunate that no legislation to strengthen the school zone law and potentially save lives was approved by the General Assembly during the session.

The Active Transportation Alliance is among a few groups that support the Emanuel administration's plan to deploy speed cameras at several hundred designated safety zones near schools and parks. Critics contend the strategy is a money-grab targeting drivers.

American Traffic Solutions' opposition to the current bill "causes us to question their priorities and whether they are the right vendor for such a safety program in Chicago," Burke said.

"It is surprising that a speed camera company that is supposed to be interested in making streets safer for children would actively oppose this bill," Burke said. "If you are the city, the last thing you would want is for your speed camera vendor to take this odd position."

Tribune reporter David Kidwell contributed.

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