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Speed enforcement cameras land at 2 Richmond public schools

Bobby Vincent speaking at a lectern
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Bobby Vincent, director of the Department of Public Works, give remarks during April's Speed Management Symposium at Main Street Station in Richmond.

The four recently installed cameras could lead to more around the city.

In an effort to slow down drivers in school zones, the City of Richmond’s Department of Public Works has installed four speed enforcement cameras on a trial basis at two schools. The approval stems from a law the General Assembly passed in 2020.

Linwood Holton Elementary School and the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts have the gray boxes, which sit squat in the median and sort of look like something out of a Doctor Who episode.

“We've been really excited since the passage of the allowance for school zone speed enforcement cameras in the General Assembly in 2020,” said Tara Fitzpatrick, Safe Routes to School coordinator at Greater Richmond Fit for Kids.

Current Virginia law states that when lights are flashing in school crossing zones, the speed limit is 25 mph. Any driver going above that can be fined up to $250 in addition to other penalties.

Fitzpatrick said she’s seen many drivers speeding during school hours.

“I don't think there's a single school where I've observed arrival and dismissal that would not benefit from having school zone speed enforcement,” said Fitzpatrick. “Even in some of our more urban neighborhoods where you would assume that drivers would be a little bit more careful and drive more safely at safer speeds, we tend to still see a lot of really high speeds and a disregard of safety.”

She said Greater Richmond Fit for Kids has been eagerly awaiting the cameras.

“We've been big advocates of trying to get the city to install them as soon as possible,” she said. “It's been a big lift. And I know that certain city councilors have been working really hard on encouraging DPW, and then RPD to get the program installed. It took a while.”

Linwood Holton and Patrick Henry were chosen because of their proximity to the city’s high-injury street network — which sees a high number of traffic-related crashes, according to city officials. At Holton, cameras are pointed toward westbound Laburnum Avenue and northbound Hermitage Road.

The Patrick Henry cameras are pointed toward both directions of traffic on Semmes Avenue.

“We've got folks that are going well over the speed limit in school zones,” said Fifth District Council Member Stephanie Lynch, “particularly on these roads [which] are both high-injury networks. We've had multiple fatalities on both of these roads.”

Lynch, whose district includes Patrick Henry, said the entire process to get the cameras installed took about four years.

Speaking at the city’s Speed Symposium Wednesday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said he’d like to see more cameras installed.

“I want the city and the City Council to pursue speed cameras all across the city of Richmond, just like they do in Washington, D.C., just like they do in Philadelphia,” said Stoney.

Stoney said he’d also like to see speed enforcement cameras at stop signs. He added the city’s ongoing efforts, such as changing road design, setting reasonable speed limits and applying enforcement efforts to address speeding, has “improved the overall safety of our roadway network over the last six years.”

In the first 30 days of the cameras’ operation, drivers who go 11 mph or more over the speed limit will receive warnings. After that, vehicle owners may face a civil penalty, with a first-time fine of $50 followed by $100 for all second violations after the first 30 days, according to state law.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.