Aurora man throws red flag on city’s red-light photo program


AURORA | Standing near the intersection of East Mississippi Avenue and South Chambers Road, Kelly Gonzales sees something inherently unfair about the city’s red light cameras.

If drivers pull out of one of the exits from the grocery store parking lot on the southwest corner of the intersection and head east on Mississippi, they never see the sign warning about the photo red-light system awaiting them a few feet away. It’s one of 14 photo enforcers scattered across the city.

That, Gonzales argues, isn’t right. He stipulates that the red-light violations may be real, but the tickets issued by the robotic systems don’t follow state regulations.

“If they are gonna have these, they need to at least do it right,” he said.

Gonzales and his persistent lobbying has already led city officials to say they plan to move one sign, and Gonzales said he is hoping more — especially that sign at Mississippi and Chambers — will be moved or improved at some point.

State law requires that the signs are “conspicuous” to drivers and that they sit between 200 and 500 feet from the intersection.

In an email to Gonzales this month, Aurora police Lt. Michael McClelland, who oversees the department’s said that while the city plans to move the sign at Mississippi and South Abilene Street, they don’t believe any other signs need to be moved.

The city’s photo red light system is administered by Xerox Solutions and in an email from Xerox Program Manager Kirk Best that McClelland sent to Gonzales, Best says the signs are not only in the right spot, but they are regularly checked.

“Each location has been in compliance since the day each location went live. Not only is each location in compliance, but during our weekly on-site checks of each location, every sign is verified to be in place,” Best wrote. 

But Gonzales said the city’s contention that all the signs are “conspicuous” doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s hardly conspicuous when you can’t physically see it from your car, he says.

At Mississippi and Chambers, for example, he points to those cars that pull out of the parking lot between two fast food restaurants. The sign is posted to the west of the driveway they use, so they only see the back of it.

And it goes further than that, he said.

The lone sign that eastbound drivers see is that one posted to the west — up stream — of the driveway on the south side of the street. But the cameras nab any driver who runs the red light, or any driver who makes a left hand turn. For drivers making that left hand turn, the sign is several lanes of traffic away from them.

Gonzales said that isn’t the standard used in other road signs. When a U-turn isn’t allowed at an intersection, Gonzales pointed out that the sign warning against making a U-turn is posted in the median, not on the right-hand side of the road where effected vehicles likely won’t see it.

“The sign at Mississippi and Abilene was in compliance … however, after concerns were raised by Mr. Gonzalez, APD … had the sign moved to increase visibility,” McClelland said. “The signs at other photo red lights intersection have been checked and are also in compliance… There are no plans to make any adjustments to them.”

The issue of photo red-light tickets has long been contentious in Aurora and the state. City officials narrowly decided not to ask voters this fall whether to scrap the program. Similarly, state lawmakers passed statewide bans on the systems, only to have Gov. John Hickenlooper veto the measure, saying it’s a matter of local control.