12 Investigates: Million dollar mile

Published: Jul. 23, 2012 at 8:53 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 24, 2012 at 3:15 AM EDT
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HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) - The latest figures are in and Hopewell made another $2 million last fiscal year for nabbing speeders on a mile long section of I-295.

The one-mile section of I-295 only takes a little less than 60 seconds to breeze through, but if you drive above 81 miles per hour, it's one of the more costly stretches of roadway in the state.

Hopewell's Sheriff hired a dozen deputies, whose sole job is to patrol this road. The Sheriff started the traffic safety program in 2007 and each year the money the city's collected has grown.

Over the last five years, the city's speed traps along I-295 have brought in more than $4.7 million. A whopping 72 percent of the tickets handed out go to out-of-state drivers. The Sheriff makes no apologies.

"Absolutely not! Don't do 81 miles an hour," said Sheriff Greg Anderson, a no nonsense 63-year old Vietnam vet who keeps a shotgun next to his desk at all times. "It's not the million dollar mile. It's now the two million dollar mile. If people want to keep traveling at these high rates of speed, if they want to keep this up, then I plan to make it the three million dollar mile if at all feasible."

The program drew the ire of AAA.

"This appears to be a gross number of tickets in a very small stretch of roadway," said AAA's Martha Meade.

The General Assembly began eyeing the program soon after. The state is now even cashing in on the venture. Lawmakers managed to attach an amendment to the state budget grabbing some of the cash.

"That's the biggest political crock I have herd in my time as sheriff. It's nothing but politics," said Anderson.

This year alone, the state will make $108,000 off the I-295 program and two months before this program started back in 2007, Hopewell's city council raised the fee paid if you fight your ticket in court from $5.00 to $10.00.

Under the law, localities are allowed to collect as much as $10 as part of the cost in each criminal or traffic case in their district and circuit courts. The money goes directly into the courthouse security fund and must be spent on courthouse personnel and equipment. There's no way to know how much was generated directly from the I-295 project because this fee is assessed to every ticket that go through the courthouse, but since 2007 there's been a gradual increase in the money going into account. In the last five years, the courthouse security fund took in more than $400,000.

"I knew it had gone up. My thing is, hey, you do the crime, you pay the fine," said Anderson.

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