Houston Turns Off Red-Light Cameras For Good

Cameras Turned Of At 12:01 P.M. Wednesday

HOUSTON - Houston city leaders voted Wednesday to permanently turn off the city's red-light cameras, more than nine months after residents voted to remove them.

During its meeting Wednesday, the Houston City Council approved a nonbinding resolution turning the cameras off and canceling the program's contract.

Council members also voted to repeal the ordinance that allowed the red-light camera program. Council members said they were voting to support the will of the people.

The cameras were turned off at 12:01 p.m. Wednesday.

"An order was issued to ATS to turn off red-light cameras at 12:01. There are no more red-light cameras in the city of Houston," Houston Mayor Annise Parker said. "We are not recognizing any tickets after 12:01. We no longer have an ordinance that allows us to recognize those."

City Council member Sue Lovell was the only person to vote against the resolution.

"We walk away from here today with absolutely no plan on how to keep our citizens safe at those intersections. We do not have enough officers 24/7 to put them in those intersections to keep our citizens safe. And we all know that when there is consequences to bad actions, people will then alter their behavior," Lovell said.

The resolution also allows the city to either reach a reasonable settlement with the camera vendor to settle the program's contract or take the case to court.

The company that runs the program has said that canceling the contract will mean the city will have to pay up to $25 million in damages.

"ATS feels that the city has acted in bad faith, that it's breached our agreement, that it's forgotten that a deal is a deal," said Andy Taylor of ATS.

Parker said the city is hoping to settle the contract through mediation and avoid litigation. She told council members that both sides are still far apart.

"We need to get down to negotiating what the proper settlement will be," Parker said.

Last week, city leaders delayed taking any action because of the potential for a large settlement with the company.

American Traffic Solutions reminded city officials on Tuesday that the red-light camera contract is valid through 2013.

"We expect to be back in court by the end of the week," ATS said in a statement Wednesday.

With 53 percent of the vote, Houstonians elected to halt the red-light camera system in November. However, federal Judge Lynn Hughes ruled the election invalid and said the proposition violated the city charter. The City Council adopted an ordinance initiating the use of red-light cameras in 2004, but it was not challenged until 2010.

The cameras started going up in 2006. More than 800,000 tickets had been issued, resulting in more than $44 million in fines.

Drivers who have already received citations do have to pay them.

Copyright 2011 by Click2Houston.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.