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Fairfax County won’t be joining other local jurisdictions in placing red light cameras at intersections in the near future.

On Tuesday, a Board of Supervisors committee determined that, under Virginia’s rules for the program, it doesn’t make financial sense for the county to install cameras to catch people running red lights.

“This program would actually cost us money, despite the fact that people are getting fined,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), chairman of the board’s Transportation Committee.

Fairfax County had a photo red light program from 2000 to 2005, when the Virginia General Assembly failed to renew the authorizing legislation allowing localities to have red light cameras.

The General Assembly reinstated the authority in 2012, but there are a lot more requirements the county would have to meet before installing cameras, said Neil Freschman of the county’s Department of Transportation.

The county would first have to select the desired intersections and conduct a detailed engineering analysis of each intersection to evaluate safety. These reports would look at the crash history, signal timing, line of sight and traffic volumes.

Then, the proposed intersections would go to the Virginia Department of Transportation for approval.

Any tickets issued by the photo red light system would have to be reviewed and validated by a police officer. The legislation caps the fine at $50.

“Running a red light is a pretty serious violation,” said Eric Teitelman, with the Department of Transportation, contrasting the camera fine with that issued by a police officer. “If you get pulled over, the fine is hundreds of dollars and points on your license.”

In addition to the cost of equipment, the engineering work required would add to the startup costs.

The county would have to hire two additional police officers and a unit supervisor to support just 25 cameras, Freschman said, and cover about $300,000 per year in other operating expenses. The money recouped from fines may not be enough to cover the costs, he said.

“That’s a lot of money to invest in a program that has questionable results,” said Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield).

According to an evaluation in 2004, the county saw a 24 to 33 percent decrease in crashes attributed to red light running during the previous iteration of the program, as well as a 50 to 71 percent increase in rear-end crashes related to red lights.

The prior county program operated at an annual deficit of nearly $100,000.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com