Minneapolis has the green light to proceed with a pilot program that will allow the city to use cameras to catch speeders and drivers who run red lights, and mail them a ticket.

A provision in an omnibus bill passed in the final hours of the legislative session grants authority for the state's largest city to institute a traffic enforcement camera program that can start as soon as Aug. 1, 2025, and run for four years.

"Minneapolis now has authority," said Ethan Fawley, who coordinates the city's Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic deaths within the next three years.

Over the next 15 months, Minneapolis will have to flesh out a plan on how the program would work, conduct community engagement and determine where up to 42 cameras can be placed, according to the law, in "geographically distinct areas and in multiple communities with differing socioeconomic conditions." The city also will need to procure equipment and hire traffic camera enforcement agents.

The pilot gives Minneapolis a second chance at using technology that is already in place in more than 25 states and about 200 cities across the United States. The city rolled out a system known as PhotoCop in 2005, but it didn't last long. The state Supreme Court ruled the program invalid because it conflicted with state law and forced vehicle owners who were cited to prove they were not the ones driving.

The new law will allow Mendota Heights to do the same, and gives the Minnesota Department of Transportation permission to run a similar program in work zones.

Under the law, drivers who are captured on camera going more than 10 mph over the speed limit would get a letter for the first offense and a $40 citation for subsequent offenses. That would double to $80 for drivers caught going 20 mph or more over the speed limit.

The money collected would be used for operating costs or to pay for traffic safety or traffic-calming projects.

Drivers could attend a traffic safety class once in lieu of paying the fine, according to the law. Tickets will be sent to vehicle owners but can be contested; an owner can provide a sworn statement stating they were not driving at the time of the offense.

"We are not sure how often that would be happening," said Fawley while speaking at a traffic safety conference Thursday in Brooklyn Center. But the main goal of the pilot is to focus on "giving drivers a chance to change their behavior."

Automated speed cameras, which are approved by the Federal Highway Administration , have shown to reduce fatalities and injuries by 20% to 37%, the agency said. Some studies have shown a dramatic drop in the number of drivers going more than 10 mph over the speed limit when cameras are present, FHWA says.

"We have not seen any other device that can get that good of compliance," Fawley said.

Minneapolis would use the cameras at the outset to focus on speeders, but could expand the pilot to look for red light runners, Fawley said. Speeding is the leading cause of crashes leading to deaths and serious injuries in Minneapolis — an issue he said earlier this year is worse here than in many other parts of the country.

City data showed speeding contributed to 136 crashes, resulting in a fatality or serious injury between 2017 and 2021. Red light running came in fourth, with 85 crashes.

Speeding in work zones has also been a problem for MnDOT. The agency said the number of drivers going 15 mph or more over the speed limit has increased since 2020.

In a test program MnDOT ran in Maple Grove in November 2020 when Interstate 94 was under construction, the agency found just 36% of the more than 333,000 drivers who passed through the work zone obeyed the 60 mph speed limit.

The test found 60% of drivers going between 61 and 75 mph and 13% of motorists driving 76 mph or faster, including several clocked at 100 mph or more. Speeding was at its worst at 3 p.m.

"We hope putting something in front of them will make them slow down," said MnDOT engineer Mark Wagner.

Violations won't go on a driver's record (though they would for commercial drivers) and can't be used to revoke, suspend or cancel a license, the law says. Cameras can only capture the rear license plate and can't be used as license plate readers.

It's not yet clear who would administer traffic safety classes, what would be included in the curriculum and whether they would be in person or online. "A lot of work still has to be done," Fawley said.