NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Red light cameras are now a thing of the past in New Jersey, after the state's five-year experimental pilot program came to an end at midnight.
On November 15, the Department of Transportation ordered all municipalities with red light cameras to have them taken offline by midnight on December 16, with "red light photo enforced signs" to be taken down by December 17.
Red light cameras are found at 73 intersections, in 24 towns across New Jersey. New Brunswick has its own camera at the intersection of Easton Avenue and Park Boulevard.
Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon had been among the most vocal critics of red light cameras. Along with Senator Michael Doherty, the two sponsored legislation that would effectivley ban them in the state of New Jersey.
“We have proven that the only thing cameras are consistently good at is robbing drivers through expensive and questionable tickets to support the wasteful spending of local officials," Doherty stated in a press release.
The five-year pilot program was not without its share of problems.
O'Scanlon had been critical of shorter yellow-light periods at red light camera intersections, leading to dozens of the cameras being temporarily shut down in 2012.
In February 2014, Brick Township in Monmouth County refused to extend its contract with American Traffic Solutions, effectively shutting down its three red light cameras.
Then in August, the state Judiciary instructed NJ municipalities to throw out 17,000 tickets that had been issued at the cameras, citing a technical glitch in which led to drivers not receiving notices of their tickets within 90 days of the tickets being isssued.
Redflex, one of the two companies that provided red light cameras to New Jersey, was also accused of bribery and its former CEO was indicted this year, as we reported.
Two of the four original sponsors of the bill that first created the red light camera program, former Assemblyman and Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas, as well as former Senator Joseph Coniglio, both sit in jail on corruption charges.
Another sponsor, Assemblyman John Wisniewski remains a free man, but public records show that Wisniewski had received a number of political contributions from the two companies that operated the red light cameras in New Jersey: Redflex and American Traffic Solutions.
The Department of Transportation is expected to eventually release a final report on the red light camera program and its effects.
In order for the program to return, a bill would have to be proposed, pass both houses of the NJ Legislature and earn the approval of Governor Chris Christie.
Two such bills have so far been proposed.
The first is sponsored three Essex County lawmakers: Deputy State Assembly Speaker L. Grace Spencer, Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo, and Assemblywoman Elinana Pintor Martin. Having the support of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, the bill would renew the program while requiring half of the cameras' revenue to be allocated towards traffic safety projects.
"The revenue isn't as important, [but] it's a great idea," Assemblyman Caputo told NJ.com.
“I believe the (Baraka) administration there is interested in seeing it reactivated,” Caputo said. “At this point, unless I hear something that very drastically changes my mind, I would be very supportive, because it’s important in the city.”
"It’s nothing mandatory. It would be totally permissive," Assemblywoman Spencer assured.
With 19 red light camera intersections, Newark has the most of any municipality in New Jersey.
The second measure to renew the red light camera program had been led by the mayors of Linden, Union and Sprinfield. Union Mayor Clifford People, Jr. cited a drop in township accident rates, and called it "ridiculous" to end the program.
Earlier in November, Springfield officials sent out a press release, in which as many as 2,000 citations a month at the beginning of the red light camera program, compared to around 600 a month by November 2014.