Eight New Red Light Cameras Coming to Arlington

by ARLnow.com March 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm 12,174 106 Comments

Arlington is planning on expanding its PhotoRED red light camera program during Fiscal Year 2013.

The proposed FY 2013 Arlington County Police Department budget includes funding for eight red light cameras at six intersections. An ACPD official tells ARLnow.com that the “dangerous” intersections (below) were each identified as safety concerns.

The additional cameras will cost the police department $438,102 during FY 2013, including $66,794 to hire a full-time employee to review each image captured by the camera to confirm that a violation took place. The remaining $371,308 will go to the contractor chosen to install and maintain the cameras.

The expenses are expected to be offset by the revenue generated by the cameras, estimated at $558,688 in the first year. Despite the expected profit, the police department is “very emphatic” that the red light camera program is about safety and not revenue, according to one official.

Currently, ACPD has red light cameras active at the intersections of N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway, Fort Myer Drive and Lee Highway, Washington Boulevard and Lee Highway, and N. Glebe Road and N. Fairfax Drive. Under the budget proposal, new cameras will be installed at the following intersections:

  • Jefferson Davis Highway and 23rd Street S.
  • Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road
  • N. Glebe Road and Washington Boulevard
  • Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive
  • Four Mile Run Drive and George Mason Drive
  • Lee Highway and George Mason Drive

For Arlington, Fiscal Year 2013 starts on July 1. No word yet on when exactly the cameras would be installed, should the police department’s budget be approved as is.

Under Virginia law, Arlington is authorized to install red light cameras at up to 20 intersections.

  • Justin


    • Arlington Democrat

      Nothing vain about this. It is all about revenue and stopping red light running. Arlington will make a fortune and our streets may be safer. What’s not to like?

    • Smartpoliciesplease

      The benefits likely do not outweight the costs in Arlington’s case–b/c some (if not most) of these intersections probably don’t have a side collision problem, but were only included to increase the revenue of the program. (See http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/05049/, explaining how cameras increase dangerous rear-end collisions at a rate similar to the rate in which they decerase dangerous side collisions). Stepping up police enforcement at any intersections that pose an actual side collision threat (and compensating the fabulous policemen and women of Arlington with the increase ticket revenue) is probably a more responsible way to address any issues. Instead, we are throwing more money at contractors who probably can’t (or won’t) guarantee that the fixed and marginal costs of this project will remain as projected. We seem to love doing that in Arlington–

  • novasteve

    I’m noticing a trend of idiots driving around arlington who stop at green lights. Too bad these cameras can’t get them too because they are posing a severe safety risk by stopping at green lights.

    • Keith

      Saw some chick do this yesterday. She was checking her phone and decided to slow to a stop at a green light on Washington Boulevard.

      • novasteve

        When I see it, it’s not even because of a cell phone. I have no idea what it is. But I see other idiots yield when they have the right of way, really creates dangerous situations. My favorite is when these idiots who stop at green lights then run red lights. They usually always do it.

        • Balderdash Champion

          They could be stopping for pedestrians/bikers who never look before entering an intersection

          • k eifried

            Bikers look. It’s our lives.

        • Like I keep saying, people in this area drive like they’re lost looking for directions. (And most likely, they are)

        • Jim


        • Josh S

          It’s foreign / new drivers. I just don’t understand how the DMV licenses these people.

      • Brian K

        And today, also a chick at Wilson and Randolph .. guy behind had to swerve to avoid her and he had left plenty of room

    • Swag

      I saw a cab stop at a green light once and then go once it turned red. Almost took out a moped.

      • geezer

        Those Kabobs don’t eat themselves!

    • Arlingtonian

      I have seen this also. In my case it’s always someone talking or texting on a phone or looking at a GPS. They don’t come to a full stop, they just slow down so much they might as well be stopped. I know someone at my office who slows down to 10 or 15 below the speed limit every time she yaks on her phone. Ughhh

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Never know when some idiot will walk out in a cross walk

  • Lee-n-Glebe

    George Mason is apparently not a good place to run a light!

  • Rachel

    Well that sucks for all of us

    • actually

      …It just sucks for red light runners

      • Joehoya

        And people following behind cars that slam on their brakes because they don’t want to risk going through a a light that just turned yellow.

        • novasteve

          Don’t tailgate.

          • Here here!

          • drax

            Steve nailed another one.

          • Glebe Roader

            Yeah, he “usually always” does.

          • drax

            He usually fails miserably, so I like to encourage him when he doesn’t.

          • Abe Froman

            So, how do you stop someone from tailgating you? Because there are two things I wonder about. When I am going to get rear ended stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk and when I am going to get rear ended stopping at yellow, because I already got my running a yellow light ticket from officer hairy lip last year down on GM Dr and Columbia Pike, when I had some guy riding my ass and no pedestrians in sight.

          • Arlington Democrat

            When people tailgate me I drive slower.

        • Brendan

          Haha, that is the stupidest logic I have ever heard. If you weren’t tailgating, it wouldn’t matter!

        • zzzzz

          If the light just turned yellow you should be stopping too. And you shouldn’t be following that closely.

          BTW I work near Glebe and Fairfax where there is already a red-light camera. I have seen 0 accidents of the type you describe since the camera went live.

          • Lola

            At this particular light, the worst offenders are the cars who turn left so slowly, that even if I’m right behind them, the light goes from red to green and I haven’t been able to complete my turn. I don’t know why they do that.

        • HollaArlington

          Or you can use Drivers Ed 101 and leave a safe distance between you and the car in front of you so you don’t slam into the back of them if they suddenly stop.

        • DriversEdTeacher

          Me thinks you need remedial driving instruction.

        • esmith69

          Have to agree with everyone else–that whole “slam on their brakes” excuse is total BS. Just follow at a safe distance for the speed you’re going, and don’t always assume the person in front of you is going to enter the intersection when it turns yellow, and you have nothing to worry about.

          Technically you’re supposed to NOT enter if it’s already turned yellow, but this is OK if you’re going fast enough to make it through the intersection by the time it turns red.

        • Moof

          “…following behind cars that slam on their brakes…”?

          I’m not worried about hitting the guy in front of me, I’m worried about being hit by the guy behind me! (I don’t care if its not my fault and his insurance pays, I now have a wrecked car I need to deal with.) Section 46.2-833 of VA law says when the light turns yellow “…traffic which has not already entered the intersection, including the crosswalks, shall stop if it is not reasonably safe to continue…”. Bottom line? I’m going through the light if the coast is clear ahead of me, nowadays that’s pretty much the reasonably safe thing to do all the time if I know I can be inside the intersection before the light turns red.

      • mrdvt92

        It actually sucks for everyone.

        If you look at the Fairfax/Glebe intersection the only turn that has a camera is the left turn lane from NB Glebe to WB Fairfax. Every time I go there it takes 2-3 light cycles to get through even when there is no traffic in any of the other directions. And you think this is just affecting red light runners. By the time you waste at the three light cycles, you could have cut through my neighborhood street and been anywhere faster.

        Arlington should be forced to spend the money and actually fix the intersections.

        Here are two to start:
        NB Glebe to WB Fairfax: make the light longer or make it green on both sides of the SB Glebe.
        EB Fairfax to SB Glebe give drivers the green arrow BEFORE the red light. (currently the light turns red for about 1 second before turning to green arrow)


  • SimplyDusty

    Those seem like odd choices to me. What about N Glebe and Wilson? That’s got to be the worst stoplight in all of Arlington. If we’re targeting high-speed roads like Jeff-Davis Hwy, why not Route 50?

    Four Mile Run and George Mason seems unfair-that intersection is difficult enough to navigate without having to worry about getting caught at a red light…which one??

    • novasteve

      Would it even pick up all the idiots there who go straight on red when the left turn arrow comes on?

    • OldTimer

      And N 10th and N Washington. Catch those turning right on red from eastbound 10th. And maybe place those tire puncture things for idiots passing through 2 DO NOT ENTER signs on southbound Fillmore by ABC store!!!

      • Balderdash Champion

        do you mean turning left from washington onto 10th?

        that intersection convinces me that arlington hates me. why on earth is there no left turn arrow? There is no way to make a left onto 10th street from washington unless you wait for the light to turn red then do it illegally.

        While Im bantering here- why is the left arrow from glebe to wilson so short? even if rush hour – only 2 or 3 cars can get through…..

        The anti-car measures will continue until business departs?

        • LNE

          To avoid that left turn: from Washington Blvd turn right on Highland then a relatively easy left onto 10th Street – then head straight through on 10th.

    • Barcrofter

      The intersection at Columbia Pike and 4 Mile Run is RA-TARDED! That whole road is all effed up down there anyways. You have Buchanan that dumps onto CP and that other road that isn’t aligned with it properly. Then you have all the people going to get snowcones and pulling into that dump of a shopping complex. They only reason they are doing it is because the jogging/bike path crosses there. How about when you redo CP you just put the path under CP like it is on the other 70 streets that it intersects with. Arl Co = Dumber and Dumberer…

      • drax

        Don’t use “retarded” or variations thereof please.

    • BlueLoom

      “Four Mile Run and George Mason seems unfair-that intersection is difficult enough to navigate without having to worry about getting caught at a red light…which one??”

      +1 !!!!!

      They need to fix the intersection first, make it safer for everyone. No one can tell which light applies to them or which lane they should be in for whatever action they want to take (go straight, turn at the first light, turn at the second light). After the county gets that all sorted out, they can then put up a camera if they want.

  • truth be told

    ” Despite the expected profit, the police department is “very emphatic” that the red light camera program is about safety and not revenue, according to one official.”

    Uh, right. Bullmonkey. It is all about revenue.

    • D’oh

      Yes, police are well known to oppose public safety… [rolls eyes]Surely revenue is a part of it, but why knock it if it pays for itself AND increases safety?

    • JohnE

      Streetcar systems do not pay for themselves!

      • obamao2012


    • drax

      So what?

      I’m glad we make a little money dinging a-holes who run reds and endanger us. A little less money the taxpayers have to cough up.

  • Transplant

    This will stop people from going through red lights AND make money. It’s win-win.

    • NopeItCant

      It can’t do both. If it makes money, people are still running red lights. If people stop at red lights, it ain’t making money.

      • JimPB

        NopeltCant: You’re right ONLY if the alternatives are dichotomous. They’re not. The rate of accidents could decrease significantly (safety) — not reaching zero; at the same time, the rate of red light violations could also decrease from camera detecting violations w/o fines yet be high enough to cover the costs of the camera and its operation.

        And, factors other than a red light violation could well be have a significant role in whether accidents occur, e.g., speed of the red light traffic violator vehicle, amount of traffic, time of day, weather conditions.

        • Runaway Train

          How long have you been waiting to use the word dichotomous in a sentence?

          • justme


  • KG

    This is BS. It’s virtually impossible to make a left onto George Mason from Four Mile Run without doing it during a yellow light.

    • novasteve

      If you were already in the intersection, waiting to make a turn, and it turns red, you still have the right of way. You can’t be ticketed for something like that.

      • drax

        Exactly, because you’ve in essence already made the turn by being in the opposing stream of traffic. Wish more people figured that out and went into the intersection while waiting to turn left.

    • Chris Slatt

      To get a ticket you have to cross the stop line after it’s red – not enough to just be in the intersection when it turns. From the FAQ:

      “Cameras are set so that only those vehicles that enter the intersection after the light has turned red are photographed. Vehicles entering the intersection on yellow and are still in the intersection when the light turns red are not photographed.The camera system only takes pictures when a violation occurs.”


      • KG

        Yes, which you pretty much have to do to take a left in that intersection. You always have to wait because of the long line of cars in the other direction making a right from Four Mile Run onto George Mason. Some of them cut across the three (!!) lanes of traffic there to make the left onto the other Four Mile Run. I have seen many close accidents because of that. It’s always best to wait until the red to make that left.

        But thanks for looking that up.

    • Travis


  • JimPB

    Safety or revenue — the answer, my friend, is in the data on results.

    If the rate of accidents at an intersection decreases significantly, the
    “results” answer is safety (revenue is immaterial — if motorists generally slow down and obey the law (hurrah), the revenue from fines might not even cover the costs of the camera and its operation).

    If the rate of accidents at an intersection does NOT decrease significantly and revenue significantly exceeds the cost of the camera and its operation, the “results” answer is revenue. If the intent is safety, the camera should be removed and another means tried to increase safety at the intersection.

    • Zoning Victim

      What other means of 24 hour monitoring for an intersection is there besides stationing an officer there 100% of the time? I’d be willing to bet it would cost a lot more to station an officer there and wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective at ticketing.

      Here is the report on the study done in VA on red light cameras: http://www.motorists.org/red-light-cameras/2007Virginia.pdf

      Here is part of what the report concludes:

      “These results cannot be used to justify the widespread installation of cameras because they are not universally effective. These results also cannot be used to justify the abolition of cameras, as they have had a positive impact at some intersections and in some jurisdictions.”

  • Why can’t the county hire a person or two to install and maintain the cameras instead of paying $371,308 to a contractor to do this? That is enough money to hire some really good talent at the county level. Each year the contractor gets at least $371,308 and the county only has to put out $66,794 to hire a junior level person to to monitor the system the contractor put in place. I bet that under the terms of the contract, the contractor is making much more money that the county on these new red light cameras. I’d bet my bottom dollar on this.

    Same goes for IT support. Just what is the reason the county has to outsource all this type of work? Arlington is a major IT hub, instead of paying contractors to do this work at very expensive rates, hire locally and do this work within the county. You don’t need contractors for this type of work.

    • Ballston

      Because the county would have to then fire the person after the cameras are installed. That’s why people use contractors, for short term projects where it’s more cost efficient to pay more for a year or two than to hire someone full time for 20. The county doesn’t like hiring people they’re planning to quickly fire. Additionally, the $371,308 doesn’t sound like it’s just for the labor. It will also pay for the cameras themselves, which probably aren’t cheap. Finally, the contractor won’t be making that money every year going forward. It’s a one time cost to install them. There will likely be some costs if one breaks or someone crashes into one, but it won’t be nearly $371k.

      • Ballston,

        Don’t think you have this right.

        Respectfully suggest your assessment is totally wrong.

        • Josh S

          How do you figure? It makes eminent sense to me. What makes you think that the $371K is an annual figure? Nothing in the reporting makes it seem that way to me…..

    • Autoexec.bat

      Two guesses:
      1. It’s a lot easier to get rid of a contractor.
      2. Contractors don’t come with pension benefits or healthcare costs, at least not directly.

  • Autoexec.bat


    “’Unless a jurisdiction is willing to devote resources to implementing extensive in-hand service, citations mailed for red-light camera violations become essentially unenforceable. The average citizen is probably not aware of this loophole, but if word were widely disseminated, such knowledge could completely undermine the effectiveness of red-light camera programs, as citations issued to violators would lose their practical impact.’ Alexandria’s collection rate was 64 percent. There is no way the police department could have knocked on 19,079 doors to deliver the unpaid tickets in person, as the law requires.”

    • ArlingtonChick

      Based on their tax collection rate, I’m pretty sure Arlington would, indeed, knock on all doors to deliver the unpaid tickets.

  • Brian

    “The remaining $371,308 will go to the contractor chosen to install and maintain the cameras.”

    Seriously? These are 8 cameras, people! I don’t think “maintain” really applies, since the price is for one year (at least the article leads me to believe that). Seems pretty exorbitant.

    • Keith

      Yeah, the upfront annual cost for each of those cameras qualifies them to live in affordable housing.

    • Zoning Victim

      They aren’t just cameras. They’re ruggedized outdoor camera/computer/trigger/data transmission systems that are capable of: knowing when the light turns red, detecting whether or not a car has entered the intersection from the direction of travel that was supposed to stop, detecting whether or not the car actually proceeded through the intersection, calculating the cars speed, taking pictures of the violator as it enters and proceeds through the intersection (the timing of which is determined by the cars calculated speed) and transmitting those pictures with the report superimposed on the picture to the county’s servers for processing.

      • Lloyd

        Microchips and programming. This is not revolutionary technology.

        • Zoning Victim

          Neither are POS systems, but they are about $8K per single station setup with a single software user license plus the cost of wiring and setup for something that isn’t anywhere near as technologically advanced as a red light camera system. The price of red light cameras range from an average of $60,000 to over $90,000 according to notbored.org. At less than $50K per camera, it sounds like Arlington got a deal.

  • Travis

    They will also need to install some green turning arrows. Otherwise, people will not be able to turn at intersections like George Mason and Four Mile Run and traffic will back up worse than it already does. Once they see the $$$ increase, speed cameras will be next, just like they do in Maryland/DC.

    • zzzzz

      Depends on the cameras. At Glebe and Fairfax, there is a camera only for traffic going north on Glebe. So it’s possible that the new cameras will be for one or two directions only at these intersections.

      • Zoning Victim

        Since there are only eight cameras going into six intersections, I’d say you’re right.

    • John K.

      I doubt they will install arrows on Four Mile Run. Considering the way they time the lights on Four Mile Run and George Mason (somewhat) in that vicinity, I think they just don’t want people to drive through there.

      • Travis

        It’s hard not to drive through there when you live there.

    • Arlingtonian

      my thoughts exactly

  • jim

    More big brother from Zimmy and company.

  • Sarah

    If they’re going to put a camera at 23rd and Jeff Davis, they need to fix that horrid intersection so people can actually turn left onto Jeff Davis. The blind spots are huge and the traffic so dense that the only time you can see or have an opportunity to turn left is when the light turns red.

    • Autoexec.bat

      They’ll make their money back on that intersection just from people who are trying to cross S. Eads before the light, then block the entire intersection for people on Eads.

    • Boom! Roasted

      Absolutely absurd they would put a red light camera there without fixing the intersection. There need to be green arrows for 23rd St., or at the very least some painted arrows for 23rd St…it’s common to see two lanes trying to make a left turn from each side.

    • Ali

      Seriously. That intersection is impossible as it is. God forbid you try to make a left turn from 23rd onto Jeff Davis south. There’s two lights to go through and sometimes you get stuck between them since there’s so little opportunity to turn.

  • Rick

    It’d be a real treat if we could get the left turn arrow from SB George Mason to NB Lee Highway working before we punish all the poor people who have to wait the entire light cycle to get onto Lee.

    • LP

      Seriously. It’s been how long? Does the county even know the left turn arrow was never turned on? And why can’t they add one on SB George Mason to turn left onto Washington Blvd? That turn is IMPOSSIBLE at 8am.

      • Rick


  • I’d like to see some speeding cameras installed on Rt. 50.

  • Hal J

    Perhaps while they are installing the camera at Lee/George Mason they will fix the awful timing there. That’d cut down on red light running.

  • Carol_R

    This is not about safety. This is about generating money. There are other options like adjusting the amount of time the yellow light is on. I expect that they will shorten it once these cameras are installed so that they can get more money.

    The main problem I see is pedestrians who about 20% to 40% of the time on a continuing basis cross against the light. This is rampant and none of these people are being ticketed.

    • JimPB

      Safety or revenue — the answer, my friend, is in the data on results.
      If the rate of accidents at an intersection decreases significantly, the
      “results” answer is safety (revenue is immaterial — if motorists generally slow down and obey the law (hurrah), the revenue from fines might not even cover the costs of the camera and its operation).
      If the rate of accidents at an intersection does NOT decrease significantly and revenue significantly exceeds the cost of the camera and its operation, the “results” answer is revenue. If the intent is safety, the camera should be removed and another means tried to increase safety at the intersection.

  • Greg

    While they trumpet “safety” as the key issue, I’d like them to explain to me how a right turn the moment the light turns red — at 2 AM, with nobody else on the road — is a safety issue.

    Wait for the Stop Sign Cameras. We’ll see those in our lifetime.

    • Zoning Victim

      I’d be willing to bet you don’t know a single person who has gotten a ticket from a red light camera in that scenario.

      • Josh S

        Yikes. Remind me never to visit the track with you. It’s such a specific scenario, why would he bring it up if he *didn’t* know someone to whom it had happened? Like maybe even Greg himself?

        That being said, are there red light cameras that track right turns? Do they even exist? Cause a right on red is legal in Virginia. Wow, I just talked myself out of my first analysis. OK, we can visit the track together……

        • Zoning Victim

          Haha, if you mean race track (as in stock car racing), I’m in.

          Most red light cameras have two sensors in the road surface, one of which is far enough forward that you wouldn’t hit it if you weren’t going to through the intersection. In the unlikely event that someone got a ticket for making a legal right on red, they would have no problem getting out of it because the photos sent to them would either prove that they turned right or fail to prove they continued on through the intersection (it snaps two photos to prove you continued on through).

  • John Andre

    Red-light and speed cameras should be installed primarily to promote safety at dangerous spots and intersections…they should not be used to create “speed traps” for the purpose of collecting revenue.

    The streetcar project [or a less-costly alternative] constitutes an independent topic, and should not be brought up in the course of a discussion on traffic cameras.

  • Really!?

    Nobody is talking about how we are paying someone more than 66K to look at these images? What kind of training is needed for this job?

    • yup

      that is what i was thinking

    • Josh S

      Because the person won’t actually earn $66K. After taxes and benefits, their salary would probably be in the $40-50K range.

      Still, good money for such a basic job….

  • Arlingtron

    Why are the dormant cameras along route 50 (Arlington Blvd.) not being reactivated?

    I am in favor of the old-fashioned method of red light camera enforcement, actual police officers. Sure it’s dangerous and may cost more per ticket but you can set one up at any intersection at any time. Nothing is as strong as a deterrent as seeing someone getting a big fat ticket with points.

    Traffic enforcement cameras are most likely a revenue generator for localities. They can’t stop drunk drivers, those with outstanding warrants/suspended licenses, or vehicles with expired tags.

  • Chris R.

    Can you say overpaid? How about we hire a 30k/yr employee instead and drop the price of those tickets if its not about the money.

    • Josh S

      A) See above for discussion on what the person will actually earn. B) I’m fairly certain it’s already illegal to run a red light and that that offense already comes with a fine. I don’t think the fine for being caught by a computer-activated camera is any different than the exceedingly rare instance of being caught by a police officer.

  • Tappedout

    I’m sick of motorists being the cash cow for cash strapped governments. How about ticketing pedestrians crossing against the “Don’t Walk” signal which usually chews up the left turn arrow time. Equally as dangerous but apparently not as convenient to collect.

  • OutsideTheLaw

    Funny, I usually object to these things (in DC in particular) but it’s kind of hard to argue with these choices. Lynn & Lee is the most dangerous place in Arlington for a biker. I’d add Wilson/Clarendon & Lynn in the heart of Rosslyn to this list. And they need to structurally clean up the big intersection in Clarendon where Wilson, Washington and Clarendon Blvds come together.

  • Mark

    Huh. I wonder if this is the same company running ACPD’s cameras?


    “Chicago’s mayor is pushing to change red light cameras near schools and parks into speed cameras. Just about everybody sees it as a cash grab by the city. Today’s Chicago Tribune has an article about how the expanded speed camera program would benefit Redflex, the company Greg Goldner, one of the mayor’s long time political supporters, lobbies for. This is of merely local interest, but of wider interest in the article would be information about Goldner’s astroturfing for Redflex around the country. Redflex is the sole financial supporter for the Traffic Safety Coalition, a ‘grassroots’ organization to promote more traffic camera usage and fight any attempts to restrict such cameras. Goldner has already successfully facilitated the killing of one anti-camera ballot measure in Texas

  • Jill

    I had wanted to give some constructive feedback (along the lines of what has been mentioned above) to the County on the intersection of S Four Mile Run and S George Mason – BUT! the email address photored at arlingtonva.us does not actually take messages – so I wrote to the police (about the non-working email) and they have yet to respond. I suppose I’ll write to my councilperson.


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