Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine cannot issue citations from automated traffic enforcement cameras located on highways in their communities while they appeal orders to remove the devices, a Polk County judge has ruled.
Des Moines and Cedar Rapids stopped processing citations a few days after Polk County district court Judge Scott D. Rosenberg's April 25 ruling that the Iowa Department of Transportation can order cities to take down automated traffic enforcement cameras from highways and interstates.
Rosenberg's ruling was in response to a request for judicial review filed in 2015 by Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine after the transportation department ordered some speed cameras turned off because they did not make interstate highways or nearby intersections safer.
The speed-enforcement cameras on or adjacent to the highways in the three cities continued to operate as the issue was argued in court.
After Rosenberg's April 25 ruling, the attorneys from the three cities asked the judge to allow them to continue to issue citations from the speed cameras during their appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court.
While the automated traffic enforcement cameras can remain in place, no citations can be issued during the appeals process, Rosenberg ruled.
James C. Larew, an Iowa City lawyer who has represented numerous people fighting citations they have received from the automated traffic enforcement cameras, applauded Rosenberg's decision. Larew said his clients were baffled about why the cities continued to issue citations "based on evidence collected by equipment that the IDOT ordered to be removed."
Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine have been fighting to keep the automated speed-enforcement cameras located on or adjacent to highways in their communities since 2015 when the DOT ruled those specific devices must be turned off because they did not make the roads safer. The cities asked the DOT to reconsider, and when transportation officials came to the same conclusion, the cities turned to the district courts, asking for a judicial review. The requests were combined into one case.
A few days after Rosenberg's April 25 ruling, Cedar Rapids stopped processing citations from the speed cameras located on Interstate Highway 380, the city said in documents filed in Polk County District Court. Between May 7 and May 13, the number of vehicles traveling 67 miles per hour or higher increased 79 percent when compared to a week earlier, when citations were still being processed, Cedar Rapids police Sgt. Michael Wallerstedt wrote in an affidavit.
In addition, top speeds increased at the four camera locations along the S-curve of Highway 380, Wallerstedt stated.
Cedar Rapids officials are concerned that the higher speeds will adversely affect traffic safety on the highway, he wrote.
Des Moines City Manager Scott Sanders told the Des Moines Register that the city has also stopped processing citations from speed-enforcement cameras located on eastbound Interstate Highway 235 near Waveland Golf Course.
Officials from Muscatine could not be reached for comment.
The DOT had argued in court documents that after the April 25 ruling that the cities should comply with the agency's removal orders.
"There is no reason to allow the continued operation of traffic enforcement cameras that have not been shown to be effective from a highway safety perspective," the DOT wrote in its court filing.
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