Red-light running is one of the biggest traffic complaints for Lewiston police.

The Twin Cities will host the state’s first-ever effort to catch red-light runners on camera.

The Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center has received a $40,000 federal grant to test photo enforcement systems for six months beginning this summer.

If the systems work, transportation officials will try to get the program extended to two years and beyond.

“The first thing we need to figure out is if these systems would even work in Maine,” said ATRC Director Don Craig.

The most a driver caught by the camera could expect is a stern warning in the mailbox. Cities and counties in Maine can’t issue tickets based on photographic evidence.

A stern warning might be enough.

“If people know they’ve been seen running a light, that might make them think twice next time,” said Lewiston deputy police chief Mike Bussiere. “Ultimately, we’re looking for voluntary compliance. We want people to just stop and obey the laws. We don’t want to issue tickets.”

The Maine Department of Transportation is creating a list of problem intersections in Lewiston and Auburn. Craig will take that list to police chiefs in both cities to decide which intersection would be the best test case.

“We’re looking at a bunch of questions,” Craig said. “Does the equipment work well in the cold and how will the change of seasons affect it? How well does it operate in the summer and does that change when the snow is reflecting the sun back into it?”

The transportation center would give photographs of any red-light runners to city police. The next step would be up to them.

“We’re obviously not an enforcement agency, so we can’t make that call,” Craig said.

He said he hopes to extend the pilot program after the first six months. That would allow the group to create a more formal test.

“If this really helps, we’d take this to the state Legislature and ask them to let Maine cities do photographic enforcement,” Craig said.

Bussiere welcomed the effort. Red-light running is one of the biggest traffic complaints for Lewiston police.

“We are really trying to let them know that they are going to be stopped if they do that,” he said. “Whether it’s a police officer or something temporary like this, we are trying to do more about it.”

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