The recklessness of many drivers will never end. That is a truth that transit officials in the country know well. And despite their attempts in the past, the lack of proper resources – sufficient traffic officials (police) on the roads, among others – means drivers can do pretty much what they want, when not stuck in traffic jams, can speed at will.
Some years back the program to install traffic cameras failed. Badly.
At the time, in 2011, the Consejo de Seguridad Vial (Cosevi) – Road Safety Council – installed traffic cameras to pick off speeding drivers at several points along the General Cañas (San Jose – Alajuela), the Florencio del Castillo (San Jose – Cartago) and the Circunvalacion (ring road of San Jose).
Thousands of speeding drivers were picked off by the cameras. But there was an issue. The then traffic law (Ley de Tansito) required that drivers be personally handed the summons (traffic ticket). The Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes (MOPT) and its agency, the COSEVI, came up with the brilliant plan of publishing in the local newspaper all the tags that had been picked off by the cameras.
Booklets were published. More than 15,000 license plates of speeding drivers were made public. A small number (some 3,000) drivers dutifully paid their ticket, the rest waited. Waited until the entire program was canceled for unconstitutionality, when the Sala IV (Sala Constitucional) – Constitutional Court – declared the program invalid.
The Traffic Law reform of 2012 contemplated sanctions through cameras.
In the period between 2014 and 2015, the COSEVI attempted to sign a deal with the state telecom, Radiogragica Costarricense (RACSA) to install and maintain up to 300 cameras. RACSA, would also have the responsibility to notify drivers.
But RACSA wanted a monthly cash payment for each camera and a percentage of the take (the summons). In the negotiations, RACSA dropped the cash payment, but, demanded 70% of the take, leaving the COSEVI with only 30% of the fines.
The deal died. So did the traffic camera program.
Since, from time to time, the subject of traffic cameras has come up. This time it may succeed. Or it may not. It all depends.
If the COSEVI is able to revive the program, we could see traffic cams pop up again to a highway near you within 18 months.
Edwin Herrera, director of the COSEVI, explained that at the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021, they are confident that the traffic cams will be in operation.
To move the project along, this week the COSEVI continued the process with a second ‘pre-offer’ visit with the companies interested in providing the government with the service.
In the first “pre-offer”, some 20 companies showed an interest in the program. Herrera did not say how many of those companies made it to the second round.
“One of the products of the system is the ‘fine photo’ (through cameras), but that is not our main interest,” said Herrera.
According to the COSEVI official, the aim of the program is to monitor 100 points (not necessarily 100 cameras) of the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM).
Among the points that stand out are the Circunvalación, the points where exclusive bus lanes operate (such as in San Pedro or Guadalupe).
For Herrera, what is important, besides reducing speeding on the roads, is the generation of data “so that our technical bodies (such as the Traffic Police) can effectively generate solutions to mitigate the behavior.”
This data would be also be used to dispatch traffic officials and other emergency services to the location in real time.
The COSEVI expects that, once the contract is awarded, the process is concluded without the appeals generating delays in getting the program underway and to completion.
Unfortunately, one of the major roadblocks experienced by many government institutions, including the COSEVI, in awarding contracts are appeals, mainly by losing companies claiming irregularities in the process.