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Photo enforcement cameras approved for Interstate 76 construction zone

NORTON, Ohio- Council members have voted unanimously to outfit police in Norton with cameras to enforce speed limits on a stretch of Interstate 76 where police say speed has contributed to a dramatic increase in crashes.

Interstate 76 through Barberton and Norton is in the midst of an expansion project that will take about two more years to complete.

During the construction, lanes on the interstate have been narrowed with concrete barriers on both sides.

On Wednesday, Norton police demonstrated for FOX 8 News how drivers are exceeding the posted 55-mph speed limit.

During about a five-minute period, Norton police clocked numerous cars driving in the 60s and 70s through the construction zone.

Police say the number of crashes through the area has more than doubled in just one-year's time.

Drivers say going through the stretch is a nightmare, made even more troubling after a crash backs up travelers, and traps them between the barriers.

"It's crazy. I've seen people bouncing off the concrete barriers because they are in such a hurry to get around someone else who's doing the speed limit," said John Swaim of Norton.

"There's a terrible safety factor there and when the chief of police is concerned about it, I think it's up to us to try and help him do something about it," said Councilman Jack Gainer.

The handheld cameras will be used from bridge overpasses.

Police and public officials in Norton say with the construction it's the only way to enforce speed limits through the area.

"There's nowhere on that highway can a police officer in a cruiser pull over a car for a citation, so at this point it's almost a free for all," said Mayor Mike Zita.

Many Norton residents approve of the decision but as with any photo enforcement effort those who oppose it believe the $200 tickets are more about generating revenue than about safety.

"As far as we are concerned it is a safety issue; if we were looking at to use as a revenue generator we could put the cameras anywhere throughout the city and set it at the speed limit," said Zita.

Zita says the cameras will give drivers a 10 mile-per-hour buffer over the speed limit before a ticket will be issued.

The city will delay their use for a week or two so that they can put up signs along the highway, alerting drivers to the fact that photo enforcement is being used.

"I think it's good. I totally supported it. I was very adamant in fighting when they wanted to have the last cameras introduced into Norton; this is different," said Council Member At-Large Charlotte Whipkey.

"It's not to collect funds; it's to save somebody's life, I hope, and I hope it's my daughter's life or my wife's life or somebody that I know life that he saves," said Gainer.