By now, most regular drivers through Woodbridge have probably noticed the signs for at least one of the posted at four intersections throughout township.
of the license plates of cars going through lights that have turned red, earning the owner of the vehicle a $140 ticket they get in the mail.
Three of the red light sentinels are posted along Route 1 at Avenel Street, Green Street, and Gill Lane. According to the NJ Department of Transportation (DOT), there is a 30 day grace period after the cameras are given the go-ahead by the department, during which motorists who run a red light are given a warning in the mail, instead of the $140 ticket.
John J. White, a Colonia resident, had the misfortune of making a right from Gill Lane onto Route 1 on February 11. The camera at that intersection took the picture of his license plate, and eventually he got a ticket in the mail.
The ticket was a shock.
"I had no idea it was even there. I went to the town's website, thinking they have something about these red light cameras on their home page," White said. "I couldn't find anything."
But this isn't just a case of White not knowing that the red light cameras were installed at Gill Lane, a route he regularly uses.
The question is about when the cameras became operational, and when the 30 day grace period began. Earlier this year, DOT said the township was given the green light to begin on January 16 and ending February 15.
After doing some research about Woodbridge's red light cameras, White thought he was safe when he saw the Patch article.
"I thought, well, that's in the grace period. So this should be a warning ticket, not a ticket with a fine," he said.
This is where the story - and the dates - gets sticky.
White called the township, who told him the 30 days' warning period for the Gill Lane red light camera was up January 16.
White then made several Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests from DOT to find out when the Gill Lane camera was activated. One OPRA document was a letter from American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the red light camera vendor who runs the program for Woodbridge.
In that letter to DOT, dated December 16, Charles Caliari of ATS wrote to confirm "the previous email approval" that DOT gave for the Gill Lane warning period to begin on December 17.
But in another OPRA email White received, Michael Moran, DOT Regional Engineer, gave Woodbridge Township his official approval - the final permit acceptance - on a letterhead dated December 20 that the Gill Lane red light camera installation was completed satisfactorily as of that date. That meant that the warning period should have begun December 20 and ended January 19.
So what gives with the different dates?
"This was a little different than the process we normally follow, but it's completely legit," said Joe Dee, DOT spokesman.
"From what I've been told, we were working with the vendor [ATS] on punch list items to make sure everything was just right. We were working with them for days, if not weeks, in a row. We were in constant contact with the vendor."
Because of that close contact, Dee said that ATS was told they were "good to go" to start the cameras, and thus the warning period.
"We said we'd be sending [ATS] a final permit acceptance and sending it to the town in the mail. [DOT said] let us know the day if you want to start the warning period before [the final permit acceptance], you are approved to do so," Dee said.
"Your permit is virtually is in the mail."
The date discrepancy is yet again different than about the Gill Lane red camera light grace period: "Approval for the third intersection with red light cameras, at Route 1 and Gill Lane, was given by the DOT on January 16. The grace period at that intersection ends on February 15."
White finds it all frustrating, and like many other red light camera critics, he thinks it's less about safety and more about the .
"My daughter and I read the town's website. I never saw anything about red light cameras posted. No matter who you are or where it is, you should get a warning the first time. Say someone makes an error like I did, now I know. If I do it again, I deserve the ticket. But to catch you off guard, that's baloney," White said.
"How does the public to know? If they don't want to put that information out, it's shame on them. It's not about the money, it's about how many hundreds or thousands of people are in the same boat as me."
White intends to contest the $140 fine in court.
"That's the bottom line. It is really unfair."