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Iowa DOT cannot order removal of traffic cameras

On April 27, 2018 the Iowa Supreme Court issued its decision regarding the issue of whether cities including Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Muscatine could continue to maintain their traffic cameras on interstates and highways, notwithstanding an Iowa Department of Transportation directive to remove such cameras. The decision was handed down in the matter of City of Des Moines, et al v. Iowa Department of Transportation, a copy of which is linked here.

The IDOT had determined that certain cameras in the above cities were not in compliance with IDOT regulations and had ordered their removal. A State District Court judge in Des Moines had agreed with the IDOT and upheld the order for removal. However, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed, finding the IDOT had exceeded the scope of its authority in adopting the rules by which it then required removal of the traffic cameras at issue.

The Supreme Court rejected the IDOT’s argument that it had authority to require the removal of cameras as being an obstruction on a highway. The Supreme Court found the traffic cameras at issue did not qualify as an obstruction. The Court also found that while the IDOT had general authority over highways it had not been vested with the specific authority to regulate traffic cameras and that its general authority was not sufficient to allow the DOT to require the removal of traffic cameras. The Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous, with Justice Hecht taking no part in the decision.

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