LOW-BRIDGE CAMERAS: Council to vote on authorization Tuesday

(Reader photo)

This week, the City Council meets Tuesday instead of Monday, and the afternoon agenda has several items of West Seattle interest. Biggest among them: The bill to authorize enforcement cameras on the West Seattle low bridge. SDOT first mentioned the plan for them in June. The general authorization is under state legislation authored by local State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, passed last session on the second try, but now the city has to change its laws to make it happen. The meeting documents include some numbers of interest: The city projects the enforcement cameras will bring in more than $2 million in revenue next year, but the council-staff memo says that won’t be going to general SDOT coffers:

Under the state law, only warning notices with no monetary penalty are allowed in 2020, and fines of up to $75 per infraction are allowed beginning in 2021. After paying for administrative costs, half of the remaining funds are to be remitted to the state’s Cooper Jones active transportation safety account, which the state uses to fund grant projects or programs for bicycle, pedestrian, and non-motorist safety improvements. The remaining half of the funds may only be used for transportation improvements that support equitable access and mobility for persons with disabilities.

The initial cost to set up two cameras will be $29,000, and that will come out of the initial $70 million bridge-related funding recently approved by the council. The documents also say the cameras will cost $4,000 a month to operate. And the council staff memo notes one other cost:

Citations from cameras are required to be reviewed by a Seattle Police Department (SPD) officer for a ticket to be issued. In 2020, the pilot program can make use of existing officers that are currently funded through the school zone camera program, as COVID-19 has suspended school zone camera enforcement activity. Staffing needs for any expansion of the program in 2021 and 2022 would need to be addressed in subsequent budget proposals.

That “expansion” would likely be elsewhere in the city, as it’s noted in agenda documents that “SDOT plans to roll out cameras at locations in 2021 to enforce bus lane and ‘block the box’ restrictions.” The low-bridge camera bill is on the agenda for the 2 pm Tuesday council meeting; the agenda explains how to comment, during or before the meeting, and how to watch/listen.

30 Replies to "LOW-BRIDGE CAMERAS: Council to vote on authorization Tuesday"

  • EnoughAlready September 28, 2020 (9:14 am)

    Of course Durkan/SDOT are monetizing the misery of West Seattleites. Maybe they should also put a toll on West Marginal Way as well. Curious that they have spent time and money on this plan and yet six months later, they have yet to articulate a clear plan for the bridge repair or the funding that will make it happen. This is disgusting and insulting and targets a community that has already been beaten down with the economic downturn and the pandemic. This isn’t leadership, this is pure unadulterated exploitation of our community. Truly disgusting. 

  • Question Authority September 28, 2020 (9:41 am)

    Those against these cameras probably have a Ring camera at home they surveil all traffic with themselves.  Get the installation over with and start sending the fines as soon as possible.

  • Mj September 28, 2020 (9:47 am)

    The money from the fines should be directed to funding more Transit in WS to provide residents an alternative option.  

    • Michael September 28, 2020 (6:57 pm)

      What if it works?  Less drivers means… less funding for transit which means… less transit.

  • Joe Z September 28, 2020 (10:03 am)

    Word is definitely out that there is no low bridge enforcement on weekends. Last night around 6 PM the westbound buses were taking ~5 light cycles (10+ minutes) to get through the 5-way intersection. Traffic was backed up to E Marginal. 

  • Mj September 28, 2020 (10:31 am)

    Joe – according to Heather Marx at the City the intersection is operating at Level of Service A, little delay!

  • LuLuBelle September 28, 2020 (11:45 am)

    Saw in today’s TIMES that Oct. 21st is when the city will rule on rebuilding the bridge. WSB will you find out if rebuilding is a go will the contractor have the funds to work 24/7. 

    • WSB September 28, 2020 (4:03 pm)

      No, what’s happening October 21st, as noted in the slide deck at the last Community Task Force meeting, is that the mayor’s office will “present the Cost Benefit Analysis findings (at the Community Task Force’s 11th meeting) and discuss the decision.” Page 25:

  • Eric B September 28, 2020 (2:12 pm)

    <sarc>Cool!  If passed, guaranteed no enforcement until January!  That will really make the rampant use of the low bridge by cars much better.</sarc>

    • WSB September 28, 2020 (2:17 pm)

      We have reported that before. They may continue stationing police on the bridge during those months.

      • John R September 28, 2020 (4:22 pm)

        Any idea about how police defunding will affect this? This seems like the sort of routine activity that will drop off the bottom of the list, if police capabilities are seriously reduced. 

        • WSB September 28, 2020 (6:55 pm)

          So far the police budget cut for 2020 is small and as noted, the program would for starters use staffing that is funded by the not-in-use-currently school bus cam program. Starting tomorrow, when the mayor presents her budget, we see what happens next…

    • WSB September 28, 2020 (2:56 pm)

      This too is something stipulated in the state legislation, NOT by the city. Text of legislation as passed:
      “From the effective date of this section through December 31, 2020, a warning notice with no penalty must be issued to the registered owner of the vehicle for a violation generated through the use of an automated traffic safety camera authorized in this subsection …”

  • KT September 28, 2020 (2:29 pm)

    Every penny should go to the repair/replacement of the bridge.  Just another disguised tax otherwise.

  • payattention September 28, 2020 (2:46 pm)

    Will SPD stay once the camera’s are operative??? Plenty of wealthy people in WS that would be happy to pay the fine.

  • WSB September 28, 2020 (2:51 pm)

    To clarify:

    Where the money goes is NOT something the city made up.

    It’s in the State Legislature bill that authorized cameras to be used this way (as of June 11th). Legislation text:


  • Jort September 28, 2020 (3:29 pm)

    To the scumbag trash humans who are delaying buses by flaunting the law, I look forward to ticket after ticket after ticket coming into the mail for you. Pay up, you horrible monsters, or get back into traffic where you belong. BYE.

  • John R September 28, 2020 (4:15 pm)

    $4000 per month to operate the cameras!? I can see a substantial tab to buy them and install them and connect them to (presumably) the internet. But then what are the monthly charges? Genuinely puzzled…

    • CAM September 28, 2020 (5:01 pm)

      I’m going to guess it pays for maintenance and people to monitor them/verify the information. 

    • Michael September 28, 2020 (7:00 pm)

      Storage costs for the footage.  Processing of the footage.  Securing the footage.  Repair of any failures.  $4,000.00 honestly sounds pretty cheap.

  • Brian September 28, 2020 (4:42 pm)

    If we get nanny cams for the bridge I hope they first have plans to fix the broken system on Marginal Way. Illegal low bridge crossings happen because Marginal Way is not set up to handle  the traffic loads it is seeing and people are frustrated. The revisions they have implemented seem to make it worse and I have seen no effective mitigation so far. I’d be happy to see a group get paid $29,000 to get started and $4000 a month if they could fix the backups on Marginal. 

    • CAM September 29, 2020 (8:36 am)

      That would only be true if people weren’t illegally crossing the bridge all throughout the lockdown when there was no traffic. People are just entitled jerks. That’s why they cross the low bridge in almost all circumstances. 

  • Bradley September 28, 2020 (5:54 pm)

    With all the other nonsense and staffing issues in the city, stationing a Police office to monitor the bridge seems ridiculous. Cmon West Seattle drivers, check your privilege. 

  • Slutiourojq September 28, 2020 (11:20 pm)

    Last night around 6 PM the westbound buses were taking ~5 light cycles (10+ minutes) to get through the 5-way intersection. Traffic was backed up to E Marginal. 

  • l September 29, 2020 (9:46 am)

    Traffic is just going to get way worse for everyone on West Marginal if these cameras are installed.   People won’t take the low bridge anymore and all that traffic will be funneled onto West Marginal.   People have to get off the island somehow.    Probably better for all of us to allow a few cheaters while the bridge is being fixed.      

    • Alki Heights October 1, 2020 (10:02 am)

      I agree with L, It’s going to get uglier at the intersection. Especially when the Virus starts going away. I feel allowing motorcycles to use the bridge would help. I do not own a motorcycle by the way.   

  • Benjamin September 29, 2020 (1:37 pm)

    Can I just voice my frustration that every tax we seem to have in this city and state has to have some earmark on it?  That adds another layer of red tape and waste! Let’s just tax what we want to tax and spend what we want to spend ok?

  • Stuck in Traffic September 30, 2020 (2:49 pm)

    SDOT!  Please reconfigure the traffic light cycles.  Example #1.  Avalon and Fauntleroy way.  This turns red for west bound traffic from Avalon as soon as the traffic light on Avalon and 35th. turns green.  How stupid is that?  Example #2  West Marginal Way and Highland Park.  Why is there not a Green Right Turn Arrow for West Bound Highland Park Traffic in the right lane turning North on West Marginal when the Left Turn Traffic for South Bound traffic from West Marginal Way turning left onto Highland Park.  It’s really ridiculous!  I am sure there are others.  We West Seattleites could be using this Detour for YEARS!!!  How about a little bit of Love!

    • WSB September 30, 2020 (3:18 pm)

      If you haven’t already, please report signal problems to SDOT – 206-684-ROAD.

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