NORTH PARK — Gompers Park on the city's Northwest Side has the honor of having Chicago's first speed cameras.
Two camera units will monitor the speed of drivers around the park, with one aiming westbound at the 4200 block of West Foster Avenue and the other southbound in the 5100 block of North Pulaski Road.
The majority of the installation of the unit on Foster was completed on Saturday. The unit around the corner on Pulaski was put up Monday morning, with crews using a truck-mounted crane to put it in place.
Fifty such cameras are planned for the city by the end of the year, according to Chicago Department of Transportation deputy commissioner Scott Kubly. CDOT expects the cameras to draw about $15 million in revenue for the remainder of the year with $40-60 million expected in the first full year.
Though the first 12 cameras planned are not located at an intersection with a red light camera, Kubly said future speed cameras can "conceivably" be placed alongside red light cameras — meaning drivers could eventually be hit with two tickets in a matter of seconds in the same intersection.
"But, personally, I would not be sympathetic to someone who complained of that," Kubly said.
Albany Park resident Evan Krutcher, pushing a stroller along Foster Avenue, was happy about the speed cameras going in there.
"I'm all for anything that will make people drive more safely," Krutcher said. "I'm sure some people won't like getting tickets in the mail. But I think people should obey the speed limit."
The intersection at Gompers Park is among city's worst for speeding, Kubly said. Between 2009 and 2011, there were 87 speeding-related crashes on the two-lane street.
Megan Sajeske, who was walking her son across Foster at the traffic light in front of the Gompers Park fieldhouse, had a contrary view. Sajeske says she has not heard of any pedestrian accidents on this stretch of Foster.
"I think they're horrible," said the Mayfair resident. "I know red light cameras cause more accidents where they are located. I read they increase accidents by 80 percent. I think they will cause accidents near parks where children are. I'm really angry about it."
Another Mayfair resident, Thomas Joseph was riding his bike Monday morning and felt the cameras would have a positive effect on the area.
"It's good for the people," Joseph said. "If there's no traffic, people drive fast. I like the idea because it will slow down people and make them drive more carefully."
According to Charles Territo, spokesperson for American Traffic Solutions, the city's speed camera vendor, it could take up to two weeks for these new cameras to go live. Technicians will need to focus the camera lenses, the units will need to be calibrated, and, in the case of the new camera on Pulaski, tree branches will have to be cut back to allow the camera a clear view of the traffic.
Territo says ATS's technology is a radar-based solution they call 3D radar, which can track the speed of up to 20 cars at once.
When the two cameras go live, the immediate area surrounding Foster and Pulaski will be the city's most camera-enforced intersection. That's because two red light cameras are positioned within a block of each of these two new speed cameras.
Drivers could theoretically be hit with a $100 red light ticket at Foster and Pulaski, and then be slapped with a $35 to $100 speed camera ticket a few seconds later.
Once the cameras are operational, only warnings will be sent in the mail to speeders for the first 30 days. In addition, all drivers will be allowed one warning when they receive their first actual speed camera violation.
After that, drivers caught speeding on camera will be fined $35 for speeding 6-10 mph over the limit or $100 for exceeding the limit by 11 mph or more. The city says it expects to bring in around $15 million in speed camera revenue by the end of 2013. A Chicago Tribune analysis, however, said the city could really bring in hundreds of millions a year.
Kubly strongly rejected suspicion from some residents that the speed cameras amount to a money grab on the part of the city.
"If we never collected a penny because everyone abides by the rules, the program will have been a success," he said.
The city says it will use revenues from speed cameras for safety-related initiatives including after school programs, crossing guards and police officers, and infrastructure improvements like painting crosswalk markings and erecting traffic signs.