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Louisville cameras watch traffic flow, not red-light runners

Published: Nov. 19, 2014 at 4:56 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 3, 2015 at 5:41 AM EST
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Pat Johnson (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Pat Johnson (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Louisville Metro crews have installed about 35 cameras that are designed to help traffic flow at busy city intersections.

Traffic engineers insist that the cameras won't catch red-light runners and say the video doesn't go back to City Hall nor is the picture quality high enough to see details.

“There's no intent for Big Brother here,” said Pat Johnson, the city's traffic engineering manager. “We're not looking at folks or license plates, only vehicle detection.”

The state Transportation Cabinet paid for the cameras, which cost $3,550 a piece. Johnson said the cameras will prove cheaper and more reliable than the current in-ground sensors at many city intersections.

About 95 percent of the city's sensors, called “inductive loops,” work properly to detect cars and cycle through traffic light sequences. But the copper wires require more time to install and break down because of bad weather and pavement problems.

The sensors cost about $1,000 per lane to install, meaning the cameras are cheaper on wide intersections, such as Breckenridge Lane and Dutchmans Lane.

“With a well-installed loop, you might get a few years out of it,” Johnson said. “With a camera, it could last 10 years.”

The cameras have a visual snapshot of an empty intersection. When a car crosses into a defined zone, the camera detects a change and sends data to a metallic box near the intersection. A computer inside the box cycles the traffic light.

The video doesn't make it back to the traffic operations center, Johnson said.

Johnson said city officials hope to install more cameras when state funding allows. There are about 1,000 intersections with traffic lights in Jefferson County, he said.

Crews have put cameras above the intersections at Breckenridge Lane and Taylorsville Road and at Preston Highway at Trevilian Way. There are no cameras to detect traffic flow on Hustbourne Parkway.

Kentucky has no laws governing red-light cameras. Other cities in several states where the devices are legal have used them to catch violations and earn revenue.

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