Fort Lee Likely to Get Red Light Cameras, Mayor Says
Mayor Mark Sokolich said he regrets not taking action sooner on a red light camera enforcement program for the borough, as the NJDOT lifted its temporary suspension of a pilot program in 21 towns.
After recently directing 21 of the 25 municipalities participating in a five-year red light camera pilot program, including neighboring Palisades Park and Englewood Cliffs, to temporarily suspend enforcement and “recertify” the timing of yellow lights, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) this week lifted the suspension.
Meanwhile, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said Friday that although it might not prove to be a popular move with plenty of people in Fort Lee having expressed opposition to a red light came enforcement program in the borough, he plans to “revisit” the idea, and that the governing body is likely to move forward on it.
Prefacing his comments by saying that he always tries to make the best decisions for the community regardless of whether they’re difficult or potentially unpopular, Sokolich said he regrets not “dealing with these red light cameras two years ago.”
The NJDOT’s suspension order affected 63 of the 85 authorized red light camera intersections statewide, including Sylvan Avenue and East Palisade Avenue in Englewood Cliffs and four intersections in Palisades Park; towns were directed to temporarily stop issuing summonses based on video evidence, according to state transportation officials, who also said the pilot program legislation specified a formula “to determine the proper duration” of a yellow light that differed from the national standard.
The Cameras didn’t have to be turned off, but each municipality was ordered to have a licensed engineer conduct a traffic analysis to ensure that the length of yellow lights met the minimum time required by law.
The affected municipalities were informed Tuesday that they can resume enforcement and also issue summonses for violations that occurred during the suspension period, officials said.
American Traffic Solutions (ATS), a vendor of red light cameras and a company that pitched its services to the Fort Lee Mayor and Council more than a year ago, issued a statement in response to the NJDOT’s announcement, saying the company was “pleased that [NJDOT] has confirmed what we’ve known all along.”
“All of the approaches monitored by ATS’ red-light safety cameras are now, and have always been in compliance with both state and federal yellow light timing standards,” the ATS statement read in part. “Overall, New Jersey’s red-light safety camera programs have been an overwhelming success.”
In January, the Fort Lee Mayor and Council discussed the possibility of putting out a request for proposals (RFP) for a red light camera program but took no action on the matter.
Sokolich said Friday that the governing body wasn’t “happy with the responses” it got, but that he anticipates it will take action “within the next month or two.”
“And I’m not going to deviate from the course,” Sokolich said, insisting that such an enforcement program isn’t designed “to ticket my own community.”
Instead, the mayor said, it’s designed to make dangerous intersections safer and to generate revenue for the borough, much of which he said will come from non-residents “who are just using [Fort Lee] as a cut-through.”
“Fort Lee is blessed or cursed, depending on how you look at it, with several very, very busy intersections, where, during peak morning and afternoon rush, I would venture to guess that less than 1 percent of the traffic volume is generated by residents from Fort Lee,” Sokolich said.
One example is Route 46 and Fletcher Avenue, although it’s not the only “viable intersection” borough officials would be looking at for red light cameras, according to Sokolich, who estimated that that intersection alone could bring in $100,000 to $200,000 a month.
“And we wouldn’t be picking on our own residents,” Sokolich said. “We would be, quite frankly, dealing with a lot of violators that merely use Fort Lee as a shortcut to the bridge.”
In June, Police Chief Thomas Ripoli said there are “negatives and positives” to red light camera enforcement programs, but that he would defer to the Mayor and Council when it comes to the question of whether to institute such a program in Fort Lee.
For a complete list of the 85 intersections approved for red light camera enforcement in New Jersey, click here.