The five-year pilot program monitors state Department of Transportation and the Thruway Authority roads utilizing 30 pieces of radar equipment and cameras to collect license plate and speed data. The governor signed a bill creating the program in 2021, with support from legislators, including state Sen. George Borrello, in response to a rising number of injuries and several deaths to workers.
"I supported this program. I think it's important. It is our job to keep our employees safe and certainly on the Thruway and others, that is an important role that we have to play," Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, said.
The bill has gained attention this week due to social media posts, including one by "NT Police Blotter - LIVE," an account not associated with the North Tonawanda Police, that incorrectly noted cameras went live Monday. That Facebook post exceeded 2,300 shares in roughly a day.
"The State Department of Transportation is aware of social media posts containing misinformation regarding the Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement Program, which launched statewide on April 17 in an effort to get motorists to slow down in state-operated work zones," DOT spokesperson Joseph Morrissey said.
While cameras have been live for several weeks, violators have only been receiving warnings and fines begin next week — 30 days following the launch.
Borrello believes a clumsy rollout by the state has contributed to the confusion.
"I think it's been haphazard at best," he said. "Again, previously you had these radar systems that were mounted onto construction equipment where people could see what their speed was. It reminds them that you're in a work zone. That's the kind of actions we should be taking. Now all of a sudden those are gone so this makes me very concerned that they're rolling this out again as a revenue generator, not as a safety program."
The senator said he also has concerns about whether the cameras are being used in active clearly marked work zones. The DOT noted though speed cameras are only in active work zones when highway workers are working.
Morrissey also said there will be clear signage leading up to the work zone.
"This is about safety," Borrello said. "We should be letting people know that there are cameras in the speed zones. You will be receiving a ticket should you be speeding.
The cameras will move throughout the state during the pilot program, deployed in SUVs. Tickets will be $50 for first violation, $75 for second and $100 for three or more with an 18-month period, sent through the mail.
No points will be assessed to licenses. The DOT is currently posting an official list of these cameras daily locations online at www.ny.gov/workzone.