JEFFERSON PARK — Two speed cameras should not be installed on both sides of Jefferson Memorial Park to catch lead-footed drivers along Higgins and Lawrence avenues, Ald. John Arena (45th) said in a letter to ward residents last week.
Arena accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office of breaking a promise to seek his opinion before placing a speed camera near a park or school in the 45th Ward as part of what the mayor touts as an effort to curb speeding and keep children safe.
"Last year during hearings on the speed camera program, mayoral appointees said that aldermen would be consulted before camera locations were finalized, and no cameras would be installed without aldermanic approval," Arena wrote in an email to his constituents Friday. "That commitment has not been honored."
However, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Peter Scales said the mayor's representatives made no such promises, and the ordinance gave the department the authority to select the locations for the cameras based on several factors, including crash data and the average speed of cars.
Arena and his staff did not return several messages Monday.
An advisory committee also reviewed the locations for the cameras, Scales said.
Arena told his constituents he was confused by the location of the cameras at 5345 W. Higgins Ave. and 5439 W. Lawrence Ave., which will be positioned to monitor eastbound traffic adjacent to the park from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The camera on Higgins Avenue will be between a stop sign at Linder Avenue and the traffic signal at Milwaukee Avenue, while the camera on Lawrence Avenue will be close to the new traffic signal at Long Avenue.
Both locations are appropriate and will deter speeders and keep children safe, Scales said.
Drivers caught by the speed cameras going 6-10 miles an hour over the posted speed limit will be cited for a $35 fine, and those caught going more than 10 miles an hour over the limit will be cited for $100.
Arena voted against the ordinance allowing more than 300 cameras to be installed throughout the city. In addition to Jefferson Memorial Park location, the city's first speed cameras also will be installed near Portage Park, 4100 N. Long Ave., Sauganash Elementary School, 6040 N. Kilpatrick Ave., and Merrimac Park, 6343 W. Irving Park Road.
"There are many other ways to slow traffic and make our streets safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers," Arena wrote. "This program, allowing the cameras near parks and schools, seems to me to be another attempt to raise revenue."
For the first 30 days, the cameras will issue only warnings, and a driver also will receive a warning for his first offense.
Speed cameras near parks will enforce a 30-mph speed limit from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. Those in school zones will enforce a 20-mph limit from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and 30-mph limit until 7 p.m.
The city should explore other "less intrusive" ways to curb speeding, Arena said.
Representatives from the Chicago Department of Transportation will brief Arena and his staff about the cameras Tuesday, Scales said.
"I will continue to fight against the placement of these cameras in our community," Arena wrote, adding that he planned to hold a public forum on the issue.