Red-light cameras will continue to operate in non-home rule communities — for the time being. House Bill 173, which would have abolished cameras in communities like River Forest and Forest Park in 2016, had been approved by a wide margin in the state House in April and sent on to the Senate.
But the bill was not called for a vote in the Senate, and it won’t be as there now are more pressing priorities facing lawmakers before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
“Passing the budget is more critical at the end of the session,” said Don Harmon (D-39th), president pro tempore of the Senate.
That doesn’t mean that the matter won’t come before lawmakers in January when the new session begins, along with several related measures that never made it out of committee, added Harmon.
That was welcome news to officials River Forest and Forest Park, where the administrators in both communities felt that the bill unfairly targeted non-home rule communities.
“It was not a comprehensive bill; it was inequitable,” River Forest Village Administrator Eric Palm said. “I’m glad the bill is dead.”
Forest Park Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the legislation was not just an unfair attempt to go after red-light cameras but also was a way of limiting the rights of towns like his and River Forest, which don’t the latitude that towns, like Oak Park and the city of Chicago, have in raising alternative sources of revenue.
“We’d have to find a way of making up the revenue, and we don’t have the ability to replace it. It’s problematic and unfair,” said Gillian, who added that revenue from red-light camera violations help fund the village’s operations.
Red-light cameras in River Forest went live at North Avenue and Harlem Avenue in early 2013 and at Harlem and Lake Street a year later. In Forest Park, red-light cameras have been at the intersection of Roosevelt Road and Desplaines Avenue since 2008.
Officials say the devices have become an important aspect of public safety, helping to reduce traffic accidents at their respective communities’ busiest intersections.
They also have been an important source of revenue. In River Forest, proceeds from red-light camera violations have been used for one-time projects, such as the community’s share of Madison Street streetscape improvements, an effort that will be funded by state funds as well as money from Forest Park.