Howard County residents can expect to encounter speed cameras in county school zones this fall after a 4-1 County Council vote Monday night.
Howard now joins the state government, Baltimore, Annapolis, Laurel, and Baltimore, Prince George's and Montgomery counties, plus Washington, D.C., in having the cameras. Howard was the first in the state to get red light cameras over a decade ago, but conservatives opposed speed cameras an intrusion on privacy that would be ineffective, while police said they are a quicker, more efficient way to slow speeders near county schools.
The final vote left the council's lone Republican Greg Fox the only opponent, though the body waded through 21 amendments before taking that last tally.
Fox offered 13 amendments designed to severely limit the bill, which was supported by county executive Ken Ulman and police chief William J. McMahon. One amendment would have limited the number of cameras to two, and a second would have automatically ended the program after 30 months.
"Nearly everyone believes we have road safety issues," Fox said before voting. The only dispute is over how to address them, he said.
Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat and a proponent of the bill, said speeding is the most common quality of life complaint she hears. "Speed cameras are only one part of the solution," she said.
The council amended the bill to limit the number of cameras to eight.
Howard police plan to get two cameras mounted in mobile vans, and Ulman has projected revenues of $1.2 million in his budget proposal now before the council. The program is expected to cost just under $1 million, with the rest going to traffic safety programs.
The General Assembly approved legislation allowing the cameras in 2009, but Ulman, who favored a broader program that would apply to any county road, waited until the police could study speeding at virtually every public and private school in the county before deciding to go ahead. The study showed two-thirds of drivers were speeding and 14 percent going more than 11 mph over the speed limit.