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College Park to move speed cam after WTOP investigation

Saturday - 8/24/2013, 12:18am  ET

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As WTOP reported last week, this speed camera on Metzerott Road has ticketed drivers in a 30 mph zone. However, just beyond the turn on the right is a 40 mph sign. As a result of the WTOP investigation, College Park has agreed to move the camera farther away to avoid confusion over the speed limit. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- After a WTOP Ticketbuster investigation into a speed camera located at 3300 Metzerott Road, the City of College Park has agreed to move the camera to address the concerns raised in the WTOP report.

As WTOP first reported on Aug. 16, John Bressler received a ticket driving 42 mph westbound in a 30 mph zone. However, on the ticket itself a picture shows a 40 mph sign that is visible to the naked eye. As WTOP investigated, our video showed the speed camera was 165 yards from the 30 mph sign and only 40 yards from the 40 mph sign.

Two speed camera officers who run programs outside Prince George's County told WTOP while enforcing the lower limit was legal, the placement of the camera was unfair and would not have been acceptable in their jurisdictions.

On Thursday, College Park agreed to move the camera. City Manager Joseph Nagro issued a statement on the issue to WTOP:

"Recently the city was notified that some drivers may be confused about the speed limit on Metzerott Road at the location of the westbound speed camera. This is the first time in three years of operation of this camera that the city has been made aware of this concern. While the placement of the camera is legal, the city wishes to avoid any possible confusion about the speed limit in this area. As a result of an evaluation of alternative sites, the city intends to move the westbound camera to a location farther east, as determined by the traffic engineers," the statement reads.

It's unclear what will happen to the ticket to John Bressler. He intends to fight the citation in court and this announcement will likely boost his case. City Attorney Suellen Fergueson said it's unclear whether College Park will pursue the outstanding tickets on the westbound side of Metzerott Road, but that City Manager Joseph Nagro and other staffers will discuss the issue in September.

College Park officials did not return calls to WTOP about where the camera will be moved to, but it will likely be placed closer to several homes at the intersection of St. Andrews Place and Metzerott Rd. According to WTOP calculations, this location would place the camera about 50 yards from the 30 mph sign and about 150 yards from the 40 mph sign, clearing up the confusion.

Bressler tells WTOP he's happy with the decision and calls it "a change for the better."

It's unlikely past drivers who paid a ticket will get refunds. Jurisdictions only tend to refund $40 tickets to drivers when laws were broken, such as signs warning drivers were missing or an annual calibration of a camera was missed. Notable examples of such cases happened in Baltimore, Hagerstown, Greenbelt and Salisbury. Drivers could file in court to get a refund but the filing fee is almost as much as the possible refund.

It also remains unclear whether the westbound camera is still on and issuing tickets, although similar cases across Maryland in the past would suggest it has likely been turned off.

Still unresolved to some are legal questions surrounding the Metzerott Road camera. Under Maryland law, speed cameras in Prince George's County can be placed near Institutes of Higher Education.

Critics argue that the buildings around the camera do not qualify because students don't attend classes at these buildings, which was the intent of the law. But Fergueson believes the cameras meet the legal standard in a number of ways and makes no specific reference to classrooms in the statute.

If you think you're the victim of a bogus speed camera, red-light camera or parking ticket in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, WTOP may be able to help you cut the red tape. Email us your case - along with documentation - to ticketbuster@wtop.com.

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