published Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Motorists mistake traffic sensors for cameras


by Chris Carroll
  • photo
    New traffic sensors regulate traffic lights on Dayton Boulevard. Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press

They’re not always watching you.

At four intersections in Red Bank, traffic-regulating sensors have confused people into thinking the city has beefed up its traffic-camera enforcement.

“They look a lot like traffic cameras,” said Jack Wood, the Red Bank branch president of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. “But now we know they’re not.”

The white-capped overlords of the intersection share a resemblance to Red Bank’s three sets of traffic cameras that snap when violators speed or run a red light, but officials say they’re nothing of the sort.

“They are infrared sensors that send a beam that help to identify when traffic backs up at an intersection,” Police Chief Tim Christol said. “There has been a lot of confusion, but nothing like a real uproar.”

All the sensors — and traffic cameras — are at intersections with Dayton Boulevard. With the sensors, when a side-street motorist wants to turn onto Dayton Boulevard, the devices activate a red light to stop traffic so the driver has a clear left turn, Christol said.

LOCATIONS

Sensors

• Browntown Road

• Leawood Road

• Martin Road

• Newberry Road

Cameras

• Ashland Terrace

• Morrison Springs Road

• Signal Mountain Road

Note: All the roads intersect with Dayton Boulevard.

Last year, the sensors were part of a $271,000 stimulus project the federal government awarded Red Bank. The upgrade also included energy-efficient LED stoplight bulbs and “mast arms” that canceled old clutter.

Far from toughening the traffic-camera program, Mayor Monty Millard has tried to get rid of it. Last December, he failed to muscle the Arizona-based company that supplies the cameras into releasing Red Bank from a 12-year contract extension.

“With Monty in there, I don’t think we have to worry about any new cameras at all,” Wood said.

Millard faces re-election in 2012, one year before Red Bank officially can take down the cameras without incurring a financial penalty, according to the contract. Either party can cancel the contract on each three-year anniversary of its signing — 2013, 2016, 2019 or 2022.

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