Starting Wednesday, drivers passing through six Longview school zones have two choices: Drive 20 mph or less, or pay $124.
School-zone traffic cameras will resume nabbing speeders when classes resume Wednesday.
The city last spring found the cameras to be incorrectly calibrated and, in essence, too forgiving of those going slightly over 20 mph.
The stricter cameras resulted in a huge spike in tickets, especially at Mark Morris High School and Kessler and St. Helens elementaries.
Nearly 15,000 tickets were issued during the spring semester — 4,700 more than were issued during all of 2014.
The Longview City Council has voted to spend some of the money raised by the tickets on new signage in school zones, including digital speed signs and flashing lights along all camera-enforced streets. Those will be installed in the coming months.
“Through the photo enforcement program, we have learned that many drivers do not intend to speed through school zones, but that many people are not aware they are traveling in a school zone or they believe that the speed limit is something higher than 20 mph,” said Police Chief Jim Duscha in a news release.
The city emphasized in the release that drivers going any amount over 20 mph — through any section of the school zone — are subject to a ticket. A Longview police officer reviews all automatically generated tickets before they are issued.
The goal of the camera program has always been child safety, Duscha reiterated.
“(Hitting a child) at a higher rate of speed has a greater likelihood of injury and death,” he said in the release. “Therefore, this program is not about driver’s intentions; it is about reducing risk to our youth near the schools by reducing the speed of vehicles traveling through school zones.”
The City Council recently turned down a state grant that would have paid for a traffic light at Mark Morris Court and 15th Avenue — which would have done away with the speed cameras.
However, there appears to be a quiet consensus among Council members that the cameras will disappear when the contract with the company that runs them ends in December 2016.
The Longview school board had a debate recently about staffing crossing guards at the troublesome 15th Avenue and Mark Morris Court intersection. The board agreed to continue the security guard staffing at a $25,000 yearly cost to the district.
Questions about the camera program can be sent directed to the Longview Police Department at 442-5800. Information can be found online at www.mylongview.com/police.