D.C. speed camera removed after revenue plummets

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- Drivers on Southbound 295 are surprised to find the speed camera, once tucked behind the bridge abutment at Benning Road in Southeast DC, is gone.

According to DC DMV data – obtained by AAA Mid-Atlantic – that camera issued more than 2,900 tickets in December 2012, generation nearly $331,000 in revenue. Then, one month after the District increased the speed limit in the area to 50 miles per hour, the citations and revenue plummeted.

Then, when the 11th Street Bridge project started tying up 295 traffic this spring, the numbers dropped even lower – to just 866 citations and $82,000 in revenue in June.

The AAA’s John Townsend says: “You know, it's remarkable because this is about traffic safety, so the question is why are cameras placed there in the first place?”

Now that the camera has disappeared, some drivers are starting to question whether this program really is about safety.

"In certain areas, it's alright. But a lot of times they're just using it just to make revenue," says District resident Raymond Stith.

“I think they should move the cameras, they shouldn't even have the cameras at all," adds Fort Washington resident Marvin Johnson.

But MPD officials point to statistics showing a significant drop in the number of auto fatalities in DC ever since the introduction of automated traffic enforcement in 2001. They also claim that the camera’s removal is only temporary:

“We removed the units north and southbound at Benning Road and on the southern end of I295 in order to replace them with newer equipment that has better images. Those units will be back in place within a few days at most,” said M.P.D. spokesperson Gwen Crump.

In fact, just up the road, police recently installed another camera right behind a “Welcome to Washington D.C.” sign.

“What a greeting," says Townsend. "And what a rude awakening.”

Crump also said, “The photo speed enforcement on 295 will continue. 295 is not a typical interstate with wide lanes and shoulders and any collision there snarls traffic, even minor fender benders.”

She continued, “This roadway has the highest speed of any in the District, and as long as speeding remains an issue, we will continue to provide enforcement. We may move the units to different spots on I-295, but our locations are always listed on our web site."