AUSTIN, Texas — The red light fight is on.
Austin police and other departments across Texas want to keep red light cameras, and some state lawmakers don't.
Before House Bill 1631, Sgt. Mike Barger was working on a plan to expand red light cameras in Austin. The Austin City Council approved its expansion.
Sgt. Barger said the City's 10 red light cameras have reduced crashes by more than 40 percent at those intersections since 2013.
"We were in the process of looking at five new locations and moving two of the existing cameras," Sgt. Barger said.
Not anymore, thanks to State Representative Jonathan Stickland.
"I think they're unconstitutional," the lawmaker from Tarrant County said.
Stickland also doesn't believe that red light cameras reduce crashes. He's the author of HB 1631, the bill that would ban all red light cameras in Texas.
"I would disagree with the data. I think they're picking and choosing what they want to report and make it fill a certain narrative," Stickland said.
On Tuesday, that defiant tone seemed to be on display at the House Transportation Committee as well.
"So, at the end of the day, to what end are we saving lives? I can't wrap the world and niether can you wrap the world in bubble tape," said one member of the committee to Sgt. Mike Barger.
He was there to testify against the bill.
"It felt like I was speaking to a wall," he said.
Sgt. Barger told lawmakers the red light camera program in Austin works.
If lawmakers are worried about due process, Sgt. Barger said they should fix that and not eliminate the entire program.
"That's essentially what they're doing, they're throwing the baby out with the bath water," Sgt. Barger said. "The baby being the statute where it's a tool for us to use to reduce the number of crashes at intersections."
Stickland said if his bill gets more than a two-thirds majority, it will immediately take effect as soon as Governor Greg Abbott signs it.
Red light cameras were installed at the following intersections in 2009:
- 11th Street and I-35 (EB)
- MoPac Expressway at Highway 290 (EB)
- I-35 and 11th Street (NB)
- I-35 SB Frontage and 15th Street (SB)
- EB Ben White Blvd. and Lamar Blvd. (EB)
- Howard Lane and Burnet Road (EB)
- I-35 and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (WB)
- Burnet Road and Wells Branch Pkwy. (NB)
- S/B Pleasant Valley Road and Riverside Drive (SB)
- WB Ben White Blvd. and Lamar Blvd. (WB)
Since then, Sgt. Barger said the City has made a little more than $252,000 from tickets. But between 2011 and 2013, the City lost money on the program.
He also said a portion from tickets funds a program called the Safe Routes to School Program, which coordinates safety improvement projects near elementary schools. Those projects include crosswalks, pedestrian-hybrid beacons and sidewalks.
Last year, that program got more than $83,000. This year, it is slated to get double that amount.