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Iowa Supreme Court Rules DOT Can't Regulate Cities' Traffic Cameras

traffic camera
Adrian Pingstone

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Iowa Department of Transportation does not have the authority to regulate cities’ traffic cameras.

In a 6-0 opinion, Supreme Court justices agreed the IDOT cannot order Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine to remove or relocate traffic cameras. The state legislature would have to pass a law specifically granting the IDOT the authority to make and enforce rules for cities’ traffic cameras.

The three cities challenged a 2015 DOT order to remove or relocate some traffic cameras.

Friday’s opinion reverses last year’s lower-court ruling that upheld the IDOT’s actions, and sends the case back to the district court.

“We respect and uphold the Court’s decision, which places regulation of automatic traffic enforcement (ATE) systems in the hands of the legislature,” reads a statement from IDOT.

The department said the three cities can immediately resume operating their traffic cameras if they choose to.

A Cedar Rapids spokesperson said Friday morning the city has not yet decided when it might turn the disputed traffic cameras back on.

Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert said in an emailed statement the Des Moines Police Department is pleased with the decision.

“The police department will continue to work with the city’s traffic engineering staff to evaluate all automated traffic cameras to ensure that they are utilized only in appropriate locations to advance public safety objectives,” Wingert said in the statement.

The Iowa Supreme Court is still considering three other cases related to traffic cameras.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter