APNewsBreak: AZ cancels speed camera study

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PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona transportation officials say a lack of needed data forced cancellation of planned research on whether speed enforcement cameras deployed along Phoenix-area freeway cameras improved traffic safety.

The state on July 16 concluded its groundbreaking and controversial two-year program that put fixed and mobile cameras along highways statewide.

The state Department of Transportation's research center on Sept. 25 awarded a federally funded contract to a national engineering firm, Omaha, Neb.-based HDR Inc., to study the effectiveness of speed cameras in the Phoenix area.

Work under the $100,000 contract was still in its early stages when it was canceled May 27 after officials concluded that they didn't have the traffic-count data required to conduct the research, ADOT officials said this week in response to inquiries from The Associated Press.

It turned out that the required data isn't collected often enough, something that could have been addressed when the speed camera program was launched but not after the fact, spokesman Tim Tait said. "We only do the counts every three years (but) there was a mistaken assumption that we did data every year."

HDR was paid $17,300 for the preliminary work it did under the contract, ADOT spokeswoman Laura Douglas said.

According to a planning document obtained by the AP, the canceled study was intended to document any effects of speed cameras on traffic crashes, including impacts on vehicle speeds and accident rates and whether any safety gains decrease over time.

"It was a worthwhile project. I wish we could have studied more on the effects of photo enforcement," said Jason Harris, an ADOT research manager.

An earlier study conducted by an Arizona State University research on traffic cameras operated on behalf of the city of Scottsdale on a stretch of freeway in that Phoenix suburb in parts of 2006 and 2007 concluded that the cameras' presence reduced vehicle speeds and the number and severity of accidents.

Former Gov. Janet Napolitano had cited those findings in launching the statewide program, which critics said was actually motivated by a desire to generate revenue for the state.

Current Gov. Jan Brewer said she considered the cameras intrusive.

Brewer used her January budget proposal to signal her intention to end the program, and the state Department of Public Safety made it official in May when it notified the private company operating the system that its contract would not be renewed.

Tait said he was unaware of any involvement by Brewer or her staff regarding the study's cancellation.

Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman also said the governor and her staff were not involved in the decision to cancel the study, first learning of it after HDR was notified.

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