Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

City of Des Moines v. Iowa Department of Transportation and Iowa Transportation Commission

Supreme Court of Iowa

April 27, 2018


          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Scott D. Rosenberg, Judge.

         Three cities appeal a district court order upholding administrative rules issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          Michelle R. Mackel-Wiederanders and Carol J. Moser, Des Moines, Douglas A. Fulton, Matthew S. Brick, and Erin M. Clanton of Brick Gentry, P.C., West Des Moines, Elizabeth D. Jacobi and James H. Flitz, Cedar Rapids, for appellants.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, David S. Gorham, Special Assistant Attorney General, and Richard E. Mull, Assistant Attorney General, for appellees.

          MANSFIELD, Justice.

         We must determine whether the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) had the statutory authority to promulgate administrative rules regulating automated traffic enforcement (ATE) systems located along primary roads. See Iowa Admin. Code ch. 761-144 (2014). The enforcement of these rules resulted in three cities being ordered to relocate or remove several of their ATE cameras.

         The issue presented is the reach of the administrative state: Before the executive branch can adopt a rule with the force and effect of law, how much groundwork must be laid by the legislative branch? After all, article III, section 1 states that "[t]he legislative authority of this state shall be vested in a general assembly . . ."-not the executive branch. Iowa Const. art. III, § 1. Article III, section 1 also states that "no person charged with the exercise of powers properly belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any function appertaining to either of the others, except in cases hereinafter expressly directed or permitted." Id.

         On our review, we find that the IDOT did not have authority from the legislature to issue rules regulating ATE systems. The IDOT's specific grants of authority are in other areas and do not support the rules. Moreover, any general authority over "regulation and improvement of transportation" is too broad to sustain the rules-particularly in light of the specific grants of authority in other areas. See Iowa Code § 307.2 (2013). Accordingly, we conclude the rules are invalid and cannot be enforced against the cities. Therefore, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Facts and Procedural Background.

         This dispute is between the IDOT and three cities-Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and Muscatine (the Cities). The Cities have installed ATE systems on primary roads within their boundaries.[1] The IDOT has sought to regulate and limit those ATE systems through administrative rules.

         A. The Installation of the Cities' ATE Systems.

          Until 2014, the IDOT had no formal rules governing ATE systems but instead relied on informal guidelines. In 2010, working within these guidelines, Cedar Rapids obtained the IDOT's written agreement that the city could install ATE equipment. Cedar Rapids placed these systems in various locations within its city limits. These places included Interstate 380 and 1st Avenue East at the intersection of 10th Street. Both I-380 and 1st Avenue East are considered primary roads.

         Early in 2011, Muscatine also obtained the IDOT's written agreement to install ATE equipment within its limits, following a study of accident data and speeding and red-light surveys. The locations included two intersections along Highway 61, a primary road.

         Later that year, Des Moines also received IDOT's agreement that it could install ATE cameras to monitor red-light running and speeding. These included an ATE system to detect speeding vehicles traveling eastbound on Interstate 235, between 42nd Street and Polk Boulevard. I-235 is also a primary road. The specific location on I-235 was chosen because of traffic flow, highway grade, and layout, which the city maintained made it more difficult for officers to monitor speed safely from their patrol cars.

          IDOT's standard agreements-which each of the Cities executed- stated that the agency reserved the right to "[r]equire the removal of such traffic control device upon thirty days' written notice. Either lack of supervision, inadequate enforcement, unapproved operation, or intolerable congestion shall be considered sufficient reason to require removal."

         B. The IDOT's Rulemaking.

         On October 2, 2013, the IDOT commenced a rulemaking proceeding to regulate and restrict ATE placement and usage on primary roadways. See Iowa Code § 17A.4. In accordance with requirements of the Iowa Administrative Procedures Act, the IDOT published proposed rules and accepted written comments on them. See id. § 17A.4(1)(a)-(b).

         Among other things, the proposed rules provided that ATE systems "shall only be considered after other engineering and enforcement solutions have been explored and implemented, " "should not be used as a long-term solution for speeding or red-light running, " and "should only be considered in extremely limited situations on interstate roads because they are the safest class of any roadway in the state and they typically carry a significant amount of non-familiar motorists." Notice of Intended Action, Admin. Rules Review Comm. 1037C (IDOT Oct. 2, 2013), The proposed rules also required advance approval by the IDOT and a detailed "justification report" for any ATE system. Thereafter, localities would be required to submit detailed annual evaluations to assist the IDOT in reevaluating each ATE system and deciding whether to allow its continued use.

          Many comments were submitted expressing sharply divergent viewpoints.[2] Most commenters did not discuss the actual rules but addressed the pros and cons of ATE systems generally. For example:

"I strongly support the use of traffic cameras in Cedar Rapids-specifically on I380. They are working!"
"In general, I am against the indiscriminate use of 'spy cameras' as a means to collect massive fines from drivers."
"I like the idea of traffic cameras for speeding and red lights. I believe they do help to sa[v]e lives."
"I am in total agreement of getting rid of photo enforced speed cameras in Iowa. It is an invasion of privacy. Thank you for using common sense on this issue."
"I welcome fewer restrictions on the installation of speed and red-light cameras. It's the easiest way to keep drivers honest and legal. And that's good for everyone."
"I am totally against traffic cameras and think they should be outlawed."
"Anything to get people to obey traffic laws is a good thing, even if it is unpopular. Calling the cameras distracting to drivers just to get rid of them is a cheap shot. KEEP THE CAMERAS."
"I see ABSOLUTELY NO value in traffic cameras placed on the highway."

         Some commenters offered more specific suggestions. One commenter urged that

[s]peed cameras should not be placed where there is a sudden reduction in the speed limit. It is dangerous to have a speed sign reducing speed a short distance from the camera. The locals know to reduce their speed and start slamming on [their brakes], which is not safe for traffic.

         Along the same lines, another commenter recommended "that the Department additionally restrict ATEs' placement in locations where a higher speed zone is transitioning to a lower speed zone." Yet another commenter proposed that ATE systems "[n]ot be placed within 1, 000 feet of either side of a posted speed limit sign."

         On October 30, the IDOT held a public hearing to afford interested persons an opportunity to speak out on the proposed rules. At the hearing, representatives of the Cities, in addition to other officials and members of the public, made oral presentations. A total of thirteen persons spoke.

         Again, the subject of limiting the use of speed cameras within a certain distance of new speed limits came up. For example, one speaker expressed concerns about municipalities installing ATE systems "in areas where the speed is going from a faster speed zone to a slower speed zone . . . because those are areas where more people are likely to slam on their brakes, and it would be . . . more dangerous."

         The IDOT held a subsequent meeting on December 10 to present the final rules and detail the feedback it had received throughout the process. At this time, the IDOT unveiled modifications to the rules. These included a "1000-foot rule"-i.e., that ATE equipment could not be stationed within 1000 feet of a speed limit change. The IDOT explained that this modification was in response to prior comments.

         In most other respects, the final rules mirrored the initial rules the IDOT had proposed in October. Thus, all ATE locations on the primary road system had to be approved by the IDOT. Iowa Admin. Code r. 761- 144.4(3). The final rules contained a requirement that any "local jurisdiction requesting to use an automated traffic enforcement system on the primary road shall provide the department a justification report." Id. r. 761-144.5(1). Such report needed to include documentation as to "why the area is a high-crash or high-risk location." Id. r. 761-144.5(1)(a). According to the rules, ATE systems "should only be considered in extremely limited situations on interstate roads because they are the safest class of any roadway in the state and they typically carry a significant amount of non-familiar motorists." Id. r. 761-144.4(1)(c). After the ATE equipment was installed, the rules required "each local jurisdiction with active automated enforcement on Iowa's primary highway system [to] evaluate the effectiveness of its use" on an ongoing basis. Id. r. 761- 144.7(1). The annual evaluation must

(1) Address the impact of automated enforcement technology on reducing speeds or the number of red-light running violations for those sites being monitored.
(2) Identify the number and type of collisions at the sites being monitored, listing comparison data for before-and-after years. If the system includes intersection enforcement, only the monitored approaches should be included in the evaluation.
(3) Evaluate and document the automated traffic enforcement system's impact on addressing the critical traffic safety issue(s) listed in the justification report if a justification report was part of the system's initial approval process.
(4) Provide the total number of citations issued for each calendar year the system has been in operation.
(5) Certify that the calibration requirements of subrule 144.6(4) have been met.

Id. r. 761-144.7(1)(a).

         The IDOT would determine whether use of the ATE system would continue. Id. r. 761-144.8. "Continued use [would] be contingent on the effectiveness of the system, appropriate administration of it by the local jurisdiction, the continued compliance with these rules, changes in traffic patterns, infrastructure improvements, and implementation of other identified safety countermeasures." Id. r. 761-144.8(1). Additionally, the department explicitly "reserve[d] the right to require removal or modification of a system in a particular location, as deemed appropriate." Id. r. 761-144.8(2). The rules became effective February 12, 2014.

         C. The IDOT's Subsequent Directives to Remove Certain ATE Systems.

         Once the ATE rules became effective, each city submitted an evaluation to the IDOT in an effort to justify the continued presence of the cameras. Cedar Rapids provided crash data showing that crashes at 1st Avenue and 10th Street had remained roughly constant since the installation of the ATE systems. However, on I-380 there had been declines both in overall crashes and, especially, personal injury crashes. Whereas one fatal crash had occurred in 2008 and two in 2009, no fatal crashes had occurred in the relevant area of I-380 since the ATE cameras were installed.

         Muscatine reported that totaling the five intersections where ATE equipment had been installed, crashes had declined significantly overall. In 2010, there had been thirty-four motor vehicle crashes including nine injury crashes; by contrast, during the year 2013, there had been nineteen crashes, of which four were injury crashes.

         Des Moines's report also argued that its ATE systems had had a positive safety impact. Regarding the I-235 location, the report concluded that "the total number of accidents on I-235 in this area (4700 block to 4200 block) have ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.