Connecticut bills cover weigh stations, red-light cams

| 4/14/2011

Two bills at the Connecticut statehouse include multiple provisions affecting truck drivers and authorize cities to post red-light cameras.

In an effort to implement Gov. Dannel Malloy budget recommendations, the first bill under consideration in the Senate is intended to provide cost savings.

Currently, the department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety share responsibility for staffing the state’s six weigh stations. The six fixed locations are in Danbury, Greenwich, Middletown, and Union and two in Waterford.

The bill – SB1018 – would give the DMV primary responsibility for staffing, coverage and hours of operation at these facilities.

Also, the departments now staff three work shifts in each seven-day period at the Danbury weigh station. The bill would require the DMV to staff all six shifts at the Danbury facility, rather than split the six shifts with state troopers. The DMV would also coordinate Danbury’s coverage with the Greenwich weigh station “to assure concurrent coverage.”

In addition, the DPS commissioner would be responsible for assigning one state trooper to each weigh station work shift, and eliminate the requirement that these troopers patrol. In exchange, troopers trained in truck enforcement would be assigned to patrol state roads, and portable scales.

In comments from Benjamin Barnes, secretary of Connecticut’s Office of Policy and Management, shifting responsibility for weigh stations “addresses an inefficiency in the use of state resources because there are extra costs associated with having troopers working at the weigh stations with inspectors.”

The State Police Union is opposed to the staffing changes. Union President Andrew Matthews said staffing troopers at the weigh stations is critical to the state’s safety.

Rep. David Scribner, R-Brookfield/Bethel, said he is concerned about sacrificing safety to save money.

“We should be focused on safety, not the line item of a proposed budget,” Scribner recently told Transportation Committee members.

Another change would make the DMV’s commercial vehicle safety division responsible for temporarily closing any weigh station where a backlog of traffic is causing a traffic hazard. Currently, that responsibility lies with the state police.

Also included in the bill is a provision to require the DMV to create an electronic process to notify motorists, as well as truck drivers, when their licenses expire. Notifications must be sent out at least 15 days before their current license expires – the same as current law.

The availability of electronic notification is expected to save the state more than $200,000, Barnes noted.

Another bill would allow municipalities with at least 60,000 residents to post ticket cameras at intersections to catch red-light runners.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 21 states have laws permitting at least one type of automated enforcement. On the other hand, 10 states have acted to prohibit use of the enforcement tool.

In Connecticut, local ordinances would be required to limit fine amounts to $124. Distribution of fines would be divvied up between the local government and the state. Municipalities could keep 70 percent of fines for the local general fund. The state would receive 30 percent, which would be split between the general fund and the Special Transportation Fund.

Communities that would be authorized to pursue ticket camera programs are Bridgeport, Bristol, Danbury, Greenwich, Hamden, Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, New Haven, Norwalk, Stamford, Waterbury and West Hartford.

Supporters say the cameras promote safety and using technology in a helpful way. Critics, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, question the claim that cameras are solely intended to keep people safe. OOIDA leadership says a better solution is for communities to pursue intelligent traffic lights that monitor traffic and are triggered by traffic flow.

The bill – SB706 – already received committee approval in the Senate. It awaits further consideration.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Connecticut, click here.

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