Speed enforcement cameras mounted to an SUV outside DOT headquarters in Newington Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Certain work zones on Interstate 95, Route 2 and Route 8 will be equipped with speed enforcement cameras beginning next month when Connecticut rolls out a pilot program intended to reduce speeding on the state’s highways.

The program will begin on April 10 and will involve three SUVs equipped with cameras capable of recording the speed of motorists passing through work zones and photographing vehicles traveling over the speed limit. 

Photographed drivers moving at greater than 15 miles-per-hour over the speed limit will receive an infraction in the mail, according to Transportation Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto, who announced the launch of the pilot program during an afternoon press conference outside the DOT’s headquarters on the Berlin Turnpike. 

“Every day thousands of people are driving through work zones and many of these motorists don’t seem to understand how reckless their behavior can be,” Eucalitto said. “Not only do we see it with our own eyes as we’re driving on the roads but we hear it directly from those working on our roads.”

Gov. Ned Lamont, state police officials, and road construction workers joined Eucalitto for Wednesday’s announcement. 

The transportation commissioner also came with “alarming” statistics. For the last several months, the DOT has run speed monitors in work zones across Connecticut in order to establish a baseline for the camera program. 

Gov. Ned Lamont and DOT Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto

During the early hours of one morning in November, those monitors recorded more than 900 vehicles traveling at least 70 mph through an active work zone in Norwalk, he said. Eucalitto cited other statistics from East Hartford and Shelton. Work zones near those three towns will be the first to feature enforcement cameras, which can be moved with about a day’s notice, he said.

“When people see the signs or start receiving infractions in the mail, they’ll hopefully think twice about how they are driving on our roads,” Eucalitto said. “We need people to slow down when they see the orange, we need people to move over when they see responders on the side of our highway, and we need people to make it home alive.”

According to the DOT, drivers will receive a written warning on their first offense and a $75 fine on their second. Subsequent offenses will result in $175 fines.

The limited pilot program lasts for one year and was approved by the legislature as part of a traffic safety law passed in 2021. The program represents the first time Connecticut has taken a step toward embracing enforcement cameras, a subject that has historically failed to gain traction among lawmakers in part due to privacy concerns and worries the cameras would have a disproportionate impact on residents in urban communities. 

When legislation including traffic cameras was raised for a public hearing in 2021, the ACLU of Connecticut entered testimony in opposition, citing an expansion of police surveillance.

“[G]iving police and federal agencies broad access to so much geolocation data would be a significant further expansion of the surveillance state at the expense of individual privacy, particularly for already-vulnerable people,” Kelly McConney Moore, an ACLU policy counsel, wrote.

Proponents contend the cameras have proven effective in jurisdictions where they have been approved. On Wednesday, Carl Chisem, president of the Municipal Employees Union Independent, said Connecticut should consider wider use of the cameras if the pilot program improves driver behavior.

“If we see reduced work zone crashes where the cameras are placed, I would consider this program a success and worth expanding,” Chisem said. “Unfortunately many Connecticut motorists refuse to respect DOT work zones, putting our members and all highway workers at extreme risk.”

Speed enforcement cameras mounted to an SUV outside DOT headquarters in Newington Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Lamont said roadway workers would remain busy over the coming years as the state begins projects to update its aging roads and bridges. He said the cameras were one element of the state’s response to reckless driving, which also included greater state police enforcement and a bill to lower the blood-alcohol threshold for drunk driving, which he said he supports.

Lamont pointed to a nearby Jeep, which had been equipped with two-speed enforcement cameras.

“We’ll be able to keep an eye on you, we’ll be able to hold you accountable and I want you to hold yourself accountable and keep these folks safe,” Lamont said of the roadway workers gathered for the event. “It’s gotten pretty dodgy since COVID, a lot of people driving like a bat out of hell and these folks are at risk.”