New Jersey's controversial red-light cameras are likely to go dark next month, as the five-year experimental program expires with no legislative push to renew it.
Supporters of the cameras say the program has improved safety, while opponents contend the cameras have served only to enrich local and state governments.
The program was scheduled to expire Dec. 16, unless the Legislature renews it. No such legislation has been introduced.
There are 76 camera-equipped intersections in 25 New Jersey towns, including in the South Jersey communities of Cherry Hill, Gloucester Township, Stratford, Glassboro, Deptford, and Monroe Township.
"I don't see that any legislator has any interest in extending this or making it permanent," said Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R., Monmouth), a leading opponent of the red-light cameras. "People can actually have an effect - it's worth it to stand up and speak out."
Even with success apparently in sight, O'Scanlon said opponents will not let up in their campaign to pull the plug on the cameras: "We are going to strafe this burning plane until it hits the ground."
William Dressel Jr., executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, wrote to Gov. Christie last month urging that the program be continued.
"The purpose of these cameras is to enhance safety by discouraging drivers from improperly passing through red lights," Dressel wrote. "The N.J. Department of Transportation program report finds that the red-light running program in fact has been effectively enhancing safety by changing driver behavior."
The cameras have been a moneymaker for the towns, the state, and two Arizona companies that install and operate them in South Jersey, as each ticket generated by the cameras produces an $85 fine.
Between 2010 and 2012, the South Jersey cameras produced $9.5 million collected in fines, of which the six municipalities kept $5.6 million. The state received $1.3 million.
American Traffic Solutions Inc. of Scottsdale collected $2 million to run the cameras for Gloucester Township, Monroe Township, Glassboro, and Deptford Township. Redflex Traffic Systems of Phoenix collected $343,442 for operating the camera systems for Cherry Hill and Stratford.
"We believe that results from the first three years of pilot program more than support the extension and even expansion of the program," said Charles Territo, senior vice president of American Traffic Solutions.
The number of crashes and violations has dropped, he said, and crash severity has been reduced at red-light camera intersections.
If the state ends its program, Territo warned, "New Jersey should be prepared for results similar to Houston, where red light running fatalities increased by 111 percent, according to the Houston Police Department, after cameras were removed."
O'Scanlon said the cameras "are not about safety, but all about revenue. Governments need to stop looking at motorists as marks whose pockets can be picked."