Local

Ticket exposes problem with traffic signal

Friday, March 19, 2010

A local woman had a problem near the Galleria. She ended up in court after getting a red light ticket in the mail.

Westheimer and the West Loop is the kind of intersection where cameras catch a lot of red light runners. The camera there is constantly taking pictures. It took a picture of Ashley Burns' car last month, and her ticket highlights a problem HPD says they're working to fix.

If it's not the busiest intersection in Houston, the West Loop at Westheimer is certainly one of them. Red light cameras have been catching violators there for years and last month squeaky clean Ashley Burns became one...or did she.

"I've never been pulled over, knock on wood," she said. "I thought it was a mistake."

Ashley was on her way to the Galleria with her sister when the red light camera rolled video of her turning west on Westheimer. In the still photo, you could see she does have a red light for the turn lane, but if you look closer, the main lanes have a green light.

"That's the light I saw," she said. "That's the light I turned right on."

So which do you follow? Burns thought she had a pretty good argument.

"I just didn't think it was right for me to get a ticket for something like that," she said.

This week, a municipal court judge agreed with her. She dismissed the violation because the signaling was confusing. HPD admits there was a problem.

"Unfortunately, it was very confusing for the motorists," said HPD Captain Bill Staney.

Staney says the right lane traffic signal was installed in December to help protect the pedestrian crosswalk, but all the lights weren't synchronized. They caught the error in January. The city adjusted the timing, but somehow it fell out of sync again. The city has assured HPD the problem has been rectified, but they'll be watching.

"We will be rechecking it, as will public works," said Staney.

Meantime, after the inconvenience, Burns feels vindicated. Her record remains clean.

"It's a pain when you get one," said Burns.

HPD says they've received two other complaints from people related to the timing of the lights there. Their tickets were also dismissed. They do encourage people who question their violations to call the phone number on their notices. HPD promises a review of every complaint and if its valid it will be dismissed.

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local, jessica willey
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