MOUNT CARMEL — Last week the Tennessee Department of Transportation gave its final approval for Mount Carmel’s speed enforcement cameras on Highway 11-W, and work to install those cameras on both ends of town begins today.
Police Chief Jeff Jackson said Monday that the cameras won’t likely be activated for at least 30 days. The most time-consuming aspect of the camera installation will be moving utilities over to the south side of the highway adjacent to the Holston Army Ammunition Plant property for the eastbound camera.
“Before they go into operation there will be signs put up on both ends of the four-lane and at all intersections alerting motorists to the existence of the cameras,” Jackson said. “There won’t really be any way of getting on that two-mile stretch of road without passing a sign letting you know that it is photo enforced. There will be one camera for the eastbound lane traffic and one for the westbound traffic as you enter the town limits.”
The company installing the cameras is Redflex, which is the same company that installed Kingsport’s red light enforcement cameras. Redflex is paying the full cost of the installations.
There aren’t any red lights on 11-W in Mount Carmel, although town leaders have petitioned the state for years to install a red light in Mount Carmel to slow down traffic. Those requests were denied, which prompted the town to investigate the photo speed enforcement option.
It’s been a two-year process for Mount Carmel to get these cameras approved by the state. Town leaders have continually stated that generating revenue is not the motivation for this program.
Jackson said the motivation is to slow down traffic and save lives.
“We want to change the driving behavior of the people who utilize that roadway,” Jackson said. “That two-mile stretch of road has six intersections with no red lights, and we’ve had so many bad accidents and fatalities on that road. If we can slow the speeds down it should reduce the number of accidents, and the accidents that we have won’t be as severe because speed won’t be as much of a factor.”
One day last year, Jackson and Alderman Carl Wolfe parked beside Highway 11-W and shot radar, and in an hour they detected 27 cars traveling in excess of 70 mph.
Jackson noted that photo enforcement won’t eliminate police patrol of 11-W, but it will allow for officers to spend more time patrolling Carters Valley Road and the residential neighborhoods.
A Redflex ticket in Mount Carmel will cost $75, and $25 of that will automatically go to the town as a “technology fee.” The remaining $50 is the actual fine, and Redflex will receive $40 of that for the first 95 tickets per month, after which the $50 fine will be split evenly between the town and Redflex.
The speed limit in Mount Carmel on 11-W is 55 mph. Jackson said there will be a bit of a buffer zone between the speed limit and the speed that sets off the camera, but the exact speed that activates the camera won’t be made public.
“If somebody is going just a few miles an hour above the speed limit, they don’t have to be concerned,” Jackson said. “It’s not going to start taking pictures at 56 mph in a 55 mph zone. What we’re after is the ones who are speeding excessively.”