Issaquah City Hall. File photo

Issaquah City Hall. File photo

City to upgrade traffic cameras

Council approves replacing 12-year-old system.

Cameras overlooking Issaquah intersections are getting a major technology upgrade. At its Nov. 4 regular meeting the city council voted to upgrade the city’s traffic cameras.

City staff said the current cameras are 12 years old and utilize special adapters to interface with Windows 7. They will no longer be supported by the end of 2020, plus continued use of Windows 7 would create a security risk.

The project includes the removal of 38 existing traffic cameras along with all components, and the installation of 35 new cameras with corresponding components.

The viewing cameras, posted at intersections throughout the city, are used by city staff and departments to monitor intersections. Staff rely on the live feed for various transportation and safety processes.

The video feed also is updated on the city’s website every two minutes for public viewing. The traffic cameras are one of the most viewed pages on the city website, with more than 5,300 views in 2018.

The city’s website is currently undergoing a redesign, and Councilmember Victoria Hunt said she wants to be sure the feed is easily accessible in the new design.

“This is one of the most visited pages on the website, so we need to be very cognizant that people are trying to find it. So as we do the website redesign, let’s make sure that it’s still available for people to get there quickly,” she said.

The construction contract for the project was awarded to Titan Earthwork LLC for $372,385. The city council also directed the finance director to include $71,492 from the ITS Traffic Signal System Fund balance and $125,613 from the remaining budget of the 2019 pavement management program in addition to a previously approved $176,082 in funding for the project.

The motion passed five to one with Councilmember Chris Reh dissenting.

Deliberation on the topic was lengthy. At the Oct. 21 meeting, after much discussion and questions, the motion was made but kept live, postponing the vote to Nov. 4, with a request for further information and the exploring of funding options.

Council members had all pondered whether the proposed new cameras would be compatible with other future traffic system improvements, like adaptive signal technology. Many expressed wanting to be sure getting new cameras now would not be redundant if the city gets new traffic system technology — that may require its own specific cameras — in the near future.

Staff explained that the cameras — viewing cameras — would not be the same type of cameras — detection cameras — that would be used in an adaptive system. However, the viewing cameras and the detection cameras both can be used simultaneously, and the viewing cameras would still be utilized for monitoring intersections.

Still, the council said it wanted to learn more and have a better developed longterm plan, as opposed to waiting 12 years to revisit technology. The administration echoed that they will be taking a look at it when creating a broader work plan.

Reh did not support the project, but rather wanted to take a step back and explore other options. He said he would prefer to use the opportunity to upgrade the traffic cameras as a chance to get a whole new, more advanced traffic system.

“We have an opportunity here to leap frog a generation of technology, to go from circa 1999 technology, which is what we have right now, to go into circa 2020 technology,” he said. “And I think it’s worth taking a breath, taking a step back and saying, ‘Can we and how would we go about taking advantage of this opportunity, where we have to replace the cameras, to not just replace the cameras to replace the current functionality, but to replace the cameras to allow us to take a step forward and really address one of the biggest problems this town has, which is traffic, which the current system isn’t going to move the needle on?’”

While several council members agreed they want to see a longterm, comprehensive plan for integrated traffic systems down the road, several expressed not wanting to put off updating the current cameras in the meantime.

Councilmember Stacy Goodman said, “I can’t imagine just deciding to not replace cameras that need to be replaced. That would just be a giant step backwards.”

Staff estimates the new cameras will be installed in the first quarter of 2020.

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