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A system to issue traffic tickets for running red lights using automated cameras at problematic Honolulu intersections should be ready for use in May after a nearly yearlong delay.

The state Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that engineering work to assess suitability of cameras at 10 intersections began in January and should be done by March, followed by installation of the camera system, then activation in May.

For the first 30 days of operation, the system will send warnings to registered owners of vehicles caught on camera running red lights. After that, citations that include traditional red-light infraction fines starting at $200 for an initial offense will be issued using the system authorized by state lawmakers as a two-year pilot project.

Ed Sniffen, deputy director of the agency’s Highways Division, said the program’s goal is to reduce accidents by encouraging better driver decisions and that red-light cameras could be expanded at problematic intersections around the state if the pilot program proves useful.

“The goal is safety,” he said. “Bottom line, we want to make sure that we stop one of the behaviors that are killing people in our system. If we can stop red-light running at these intersections that we have, we can take away one of those aspects that impact safety throughout our system.”

Crash history was a factor in HDOT selecting 10 preferred intersections, and four alternates, for camera installation.

Among intersections intended for the system are Likelike Highway and School Street, Pali Highway and Vineyard Boulevard, Beretania and Piikoi streets, King Street and Ward ­Avenue, and North King and Beretania streets.

Sniffen said unforeseen circumstances could lead to HDOT’s timetable being pushed back, such as utility infrastructure conditions at intersections or supply chain issues affecting equipment delivery.

“There’s several things that could push us back,” he said.

Hawaii’s Legislature authorized the program with funding nearly two years ago, and HDOT at the end of 2020 reported that it was on track for the system to become operational July 1, 2021.

However, the agency in September said a delay in obtaining the authorized funding and the need to study the feasibility of each intersection delayed this previous anticipated start date to the end of 2021.

Lawmakers provided $2.8 million for the pilot program, which includes a $2.2 million contract HDOT awarded to Verra Mobility to install and support the system. Any unspent or unencumbered portion of funding was scheduled to lapse June 30, which prompted introduction of two bills in the Legislature this year to extend the lapse date for program funding to 2025.

Money for the program also will be used to create and post road signs that indicate the presence of automated red-light enforcement at each intersection outfitted with cameras, a public-awareness campaign to run for 60 days prior to the system starting, and for a prosecuting attorney to handle cases.

Revenue from citations will help fund costs of the program as well, and will not benefit the system contractor, which is being paid a flat fee for its work.

Privatizing some enforcement of Hawaii traffic laws created a public outcry two decades ago after state lawmakers authorized the hiring of a contractor to record speeding drivers from roadside vans on Oahu. Motorists complained about the vendor receiving a cut of citation revenue, and the “van cam” program was canceled after three months of operation.

Polling has suggested more public support for a red-light camera program, and lawmakers considered a variety of proposals over more than a decade since the van cam debacle. Sniffen noted that 26 states have red-light camera systems.

Still, some residents have expressed displeasure about the upcoming pilot project, including some who take issue with ticketing vehicle owners.

Honolulu’s red-light camera system will issue citations to vehicle owners because privacy concerns led to a decision that the system would photograph license plates and not drivers. Those ticketed have the opportunity to contest citations.


10 intersections being considered for red-light traffic camera enforcement:

>> Likelike Highway and School Street

>> Vineyard Boulevard and Palama Street

>> Vineyard Boulevard and Liliha Street

>> King and River streets

>> North King and Beretania streets

>> Pali Highway and Vineyard Boulevard

>> Pali Highway and School Street

>> King Street and Ward ­Avenue

>> Kapiolani Boulevard and Kamakee Street

>> Beretania and Piikoi streets

Four alternates also are being considered:

>> King and Middle streets

>> King and Kohou streets

>> Vineyard Boulevard and Nuuanu Avenue

>> McCully and Algaroba streets

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