Morrison’s new speed cameras seem to be working

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A sign on Bear Creek Avenue, Hwy. 8, on the east side of Morrison, warns motorists that speed radar is used in the 25mph zone heading out of town. May 29, 2024.

More than 10,000 drivers doing at least 10 miles over the 25 mph speed limit sped past the town of Morrison’s new speed camera on the eastern edge of downtown over a two-week period in May.

A flurry of news stories followed

Then, said Morrison Police Chief Bill Vinelli, the thing he hoped would happen did: The new automated system recorded far fewer speeders over the next two weeks — just 6,000. 

“I think the word is getting out,” Vinelli said. 

Morrison, long known as a speed trap town, is one of the first local governments in Colorado to take advantage of a 2023 law that allows them to install and use speed cameras in more places. The Colorado Department of Transportation says it too will start using enforcement cameras on highways after another expansion was signed into law on Wednesday.

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
Morrison Police Chief Bill Vinelli stands on Bear Creek Avenue on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

“We're trying to be progressive and proactive in keeping all the residents safe,” Vinelli said. “We feel that we have a good handle on it.”

That handle goes beyond cameras. City officials, with the support of the Colorado Department of Transportation, will soon begin another speed-limiting venture: a redesign of the town’s main drag, Bear Creek Avenue.

Morrison’s central thoroughfare hasn’t seen many crashes. But the town wanted to slow traffic anyway

The city counted 23 crashes on Bear Creek Avenue between 2019 and 2023, resulting in just three serious injuries, said Morrison Town Planner Carrie McCool. All of those seriously hurt, however, were either biking or walking, she said. A recent survey of town residents also shows speeding and traffic are a common concern. 

So Morrison officials are planning a modest overhaul of Bear Creek Avenue meant to slow drivers and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
Pedestrians walk across Bear Creek Avenue in downtown Morrison on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. The road, which is also a state highway, is scheduled to be redesigned in 2025 to increase pedestrian safety.

“And also we want people to go slower so they will park and come eat at our fabulous restaurants,” McCool said. 

Morrison officials initially proposed installing new medians with planters between traffic lanes and raised crosswalks — street design features that research shows can slow drivers — as part of the project. But business owners, community members, and first responders all objected, McCool said. 

The most recent redesign proposal, which town officials hope to build next year, includes more brightly painted crosswalks, a new flashing beacon for pedestrians, and other improvements for wheelchair users.

“It will definitely calm the traffic,” McCool said. 

Fines aren’t rolling in just yet, but the town expects them to

Sixteen-thousand speeding violations won’t necessarily lead to 16,000 traffic tickets being sent to drivers, Vinelli said. If a license plate is obscured or the town’s speed camera vendor can’t track down a vehicle’s owner, for example, a citation won’t be issued.

Of the tickets that have been sent with the new automated speed camera, Vinelli said, only 190 have been paid as of Thursday afternoon. Morrison receives $28 out of every $40 citation, he said. The town pays its vendor an hourly fee to run the camera system.

“We’re not doing it for the revenue,” Vinelli said. “I’m hoping it curbs your behavior.”

Despite its reputation as a speed trap, Morrison is not as reliant on speeding ticket revenue as it once was. 

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
A driver travels under the 25 mph speed limit as they pass a speed camera at the edge of downtown Morrison on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

In 2017, budget documents reviewed by CPR News show traffic ticket revenue was about $1.1 million out of an approximately $2.5 million budget. That fell in more recent years, especially when a string of police chiefs didn’t bring in as much revenue as town leaders expected. A consultant’s report, first reported by 9News, also criticized the town’s ticket-writing practices. 

Town leaders are now forecasting a significant increase in revenue from traffic tickets. It collected just $135,759 in all court fines, which include speeding tickets, in 2022, and an estimated $250,000 in 2023. In 2024, though, town officials are predicting that figure to jump to $750,000.

Mayor Chris Wolfe, however, cautioned that the estimate could very well turn out to be unreliable.

“It’s very unpredictable on what the revenue will be,” he said. “We’re not planning on it.”

Vinelli said some of the ticket revenue will go to the police department, but most will end up in the town’s general fund. 

Even though speeding violations have dropped in the last two weeks, they could tick up again soon. The sole automated camera currently operating now catches speeders as they leave town to the east. Vinelli said they will soon set the camera so it also catches speeding westbound drivers as they enter Morrison. 

Vinelli said he’s heard from several angry drivers in recent weeks. His advice to anyone who doesn’t want to get a ticket is predictable: slow down. 

“If it's a speed trap and you know that, why do you speed through Morrison? That's mind-boggling to me,” he said.