The passage of a bill Tuesday that bans speed cameras statewide is a fatal blow to Ridgeland's speeding-enforcement system on Interstate 95 -- and to in-state business for the local company that helped develop it -- according to that company's chairman.
Bill Danzell of iTraffic said there is little chance the camera system will survive if Gov. Nikki Haley signs the bill that would ban speeding tickets based on photographic evidence.
"Once she signs the bill, the program will shut down immediately," Danzell said. "There is no way for the program to operate ... (and) there would be no way you could operate a consistent automated traffic enforcement program in the state of South Carolina. It's clear that state legislators passed a law assisting law violators instead of assisting law enforcement.
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Ridgeland officials were less certain Wednesday about the cameras' future.
"I saw that the bill passed last night, but I really haven't had a chance to digest it," town administrator Jason Taylor said. "We really don't have any comment until we talk with our attorney to get some direction on where we go from here."
A Haley spokesman said she intends to sign the bill.
In August, Ridgeland became the first municipality in South Carolina to use cameras to enforce the speed limit after striking a five-year deal with iTraffic in May 2010.
As part of the deal, iTraffic relocated its headquarters from Bluffton to Ridgeland and covered the cost of installing and operating the system. That included hiring two police officers and one administrator, according to town officials.
In return, Ridgeland split the ticket revenue with the company to help it recoup startup costs.
Some state lawmakers said the town's program was a money-grab disguised as a tool to increase safety on the busy interstate.
Danzell denied that the program was a money-maker for his company and said the cameras helped reduce fatalities on Ridgeland's seven-milestretch of I-95.
"We lost about ($500,000) on the program when you factor in equipment costs and overhead," Danzell said. "There have been no traffic fatalities on that part of I-95 since the program started, and we've seen an 81 percent decline in (drivers traveling faster than 81 mph). There has never been a public safety project anywhere on the interstate that has achieved that kind of success."
Danzell added that his company would impose no penalty against the town for cutting the program short if the bill is signed into law.