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College Park moves speed camera after WTOP investigation

Friday - 8/30/2013, 5:36am  ET

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Two weeks after a WTOP TicketBuster investigation uncovered questions about the fairness of a speed camera at 3300 Metzerott Road, the City of College Park has moved the camera east to clear up any confusion.

College Park officials have put up new cameras at the intersection of Metzrott Road and St. Andrews Place, about 200 yards east of the old location. Last Friday, the City of College Park issued a statement telling WTOP about the change.

"While the placement of the camera is legal, the city wishes to avoid any possible confusion about the speed limit in this area. As a result of an evaluation of alternative sites, the city intends to move the westbound camera to a location farther east, as determined by the traffic engineers," the statement read.

Drivers in College Park wrote into WTOP on Wednesday afternoon to inform about engineers installing the new Optotraffic cameras.

The old camera was a big tower box placed near the Elkins Building on Metzerott Road, with two smaller cameras attached to the pole catching drivers in both directions. But the ticket from John Bressler at 42 mph revealed the presence of a 40 mph sign just 40 yards away. In fact, the higher speed limit sign was visible on the photograph Bressler received in early August.

Now, two small box-type cameras have replaced the tower box about 200 yards east of the previous location. Drivers heading east and west on Metzerott Road will see a 30 mph sign both before and after the camera, clearing up the confusion raised in the Bressler citation.

The video below shows the changes drivers will experience:

Bressler is happy to see the move and believes it will clear up the confusion for drivers.

"The location is much better. It is definitely a step in the right direction. Drivers who increase speed when they see the 40 mph sign will no longer be ticketed. I do not think they are exploiting the speed transition anymore. I'd still like to see refunds issued to those who were previously ticketed for speeding up in the transition," he says.

"I encourage motorists to continue to watch for unfairly placed cameras and report them to the WTOP TicketBuster program. As long as the financial conflict of interest exists I think motorists will need to stay vigilant."

Jane Hopkins, who works at the University of Maryland, says she feels liberated by the moved camera.

"It will be interesting to see if these cameras make any money. I think I was going about 25 mph as I drove from UMD to St. Andrews Place. I'm just not sure why they still have to be placed on Metzerott Road," she writes in an email to WTOP.

"I still think that holidays should be added to evenings and weekends. Not that I should be driving faster on those days than any others, but I think it becomes a mindset around those cameras. We have become Pavlov's dogs."

But College Park resident Richard Hatch said he still believes there are outstanding questions about this camera. He lives near the location of the camera.

"I agree that the cameras are in a less confusing place. But if College Park is really concerned about safety, sidewalks would be placed along Metzerott Road instead of having college students walk on people's lawns, skirt the drainage ditches or walk in the roads," Hatch writes in an email to WTOP.

"Not only that, but younger students also don't have proper places to wait for their buses. Sidewalks provide safety, whereas speed cameras only provide a deterrent."

Hatch and others like AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Maryland Drivers Alliance also say they believe this camera violates Maryland law, specifically article 21-809.

"In Prince George's County, on that part of a highway located within the grounds of an institution of higher education as defined in 10-101(h) of the Education Article, or within one-half mile of the grounds of a building or property used by the institution of higher education where generally accepted traffic and engineering practices indicate that motor vehicle, pedestrian, or bicycle traffic is substantially generated or influenced by the institution of higher education," the law reads.

These critics believe the Elkins Building, UMD Observatory and The Courtyards at the University of Maryland do not qualify under the law because students don't regularly attend classes at these buildings. But College Park attorney Suellen Fergueson says the city follows the law in several ways.

One source tells WTOP the law is vague because it never specifically uses terms like "classroom," "students" or "campus buildings where daily classes are held," even though the intent of the law was to protect college kids walking to and from class. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will tighten the language in Annapolis next year.

If you think you're the victim of a bogus speed camera, red-light camera or parking ticket in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, WTOP may be able to help you cut the red tape. Email us your case - along with documentation - to ticketbuster@wtop.com.

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