HOUSTON – The Houston City Council on Feb. 8 approved a plan to pay at least $4.8 million to settle a lawsuit with red-light camera provider American Traffic Solutions. As part of the settlement, the company’s controversial traffic cameras will be removed from city intersections within 60 days, the Houston Chronicle reported. 

The legal battle began 15 months ago when voters approved a referendum to ban the use of red-light cameras in the city. As a result, the council ordered the cameras to be shut off. But a breach-of-contract lawsuit from Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions prevented the city from taking the 50 cameras down.

Last summer, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the November 2010 camera-ban referendum was illegal because the city had authorized the red-light camera program five years earlier. The city’s contract with American Traffic Solutions was set to run through May 2014. 

Council members approved the new settlement on a vote of 13-4.

The city has collected just $3 million in fines paid by red-light violators. About 240,000 violations have associated unpaid fines. In the next few years, the city hopes to ramp up its fine collections efforts to help pay for the legal settlement with American Traffic Solutions.

American Traffic Solutions could possibly get more than $4.8 million from Houston, depending on how much money the city can collect from delinquent red-light violators. Outstanding fines total about $25 million. If all of these penalties are eventually paid – a very unlikely scenario – American Traffic Solutions could ultimately get more than $12 million.