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Photo Radar Helps Keep Work Zones Safe

ODOT and Portland Police Use Work Zone Photo Radar on an Oregon Interstate Highway for the First Time

Cameras in WorkzonesSNAP! CLICK! Quick as that, cameras in a marked police van parked along I-5 took photos of a car speeding through a work zone at 78 miles an hour. The speed limit was 50.

We all recognize the danger of travelers speeding through work zones, or not paying attention. AGC, ODOT, AAA Oregon/Idaho, the Oregon Trucking Associations, and the Oregon State Police formed an executive working committee a few years ago to come up with ways to make our work zones safer—for travelers, workers and law enforcement.

One of the latest safety tools employed was photo radar in an I-5 work zone—the first interstate deployment in Oregon.

On the evenings of September 8 and 9, 2015, the Portland Police Bureau deployed its photo radar unit along southbound I-5 in a work zone just south of the Marquam Bridge. The operation began about 10 pm each night near SW Hood St. and ran for about four hours. Radar recorded more than 200 vehicles exceeding the 50-mile-per-hour speed limit by at least 11 miles per hour.

Even though this was the first interstate deployment and only for a couple nights there was an encouraging result: Drivers slowed down in the work zone when photo radar operated—average speeds were between seven and nine percent lower.

Results from this pilot were encouraging enough that ODOT is considering repeating it in other interstate work zones.

Portland Police Bureau Photo Radar
A trained officer operates the radar from a marked police van, and travelers see a sign in advance of the operation.

Several Oregon cities are authorized to use photo radar. A trained officer operates the radar from a marked police van. Travelers see a sign in advance of the operation; a reader board displays the speed of each vehicle.

When a speeding vehicle is detected, the device takes two photos, one of the front of the car and one of the rear, to record the license plate. The registered owner of the vehicle then gets a ticket in the mail.

According to the Portland Police Bureau, all money received from tickets is used to cover the costs of the photo radar program.

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