Q: Mercer Island resident Patrice Swift has concocted a few theories for why on certain days there are caution messages flashed on overhead...

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Q: Mercer Island resident Patrice Swift has concocted a few theories for why on certain days there are caution messages flashed on overhead message boards along interstates 5 and 90 advising that trucks carrying flammable liquids cannot enter the tunnels.

One of her theories is that the way the wind is blowing, or perhaps not blowing, might create a buildup of fumes inside the tunnels that could be ignited in an accident made worse if a truck is carrying flammable cargo. Another is that perhaps certain temperatures, real hot or real cold, might affect air movement inside the tunnel. Or perhaps flammable liquids are banned when fans inside the tunnels are scheduled for maintenance.

“These all assume fans clear out a buildup of fumes which could be potentially flammable, something that may not have anything to do with it at all,” she said.

Might the reason be that since land sits on top of the tunnels and people sit on top of the land, cargo bans could have to do with sewer systems or electrical-wiring systems running through the grounds above the tunnels, which could be more vulnerable at certain times? What’s the real reason?

A: I-90’s tunnels (Mount Baker and the Mercer Island Lid) and the section of I-5 under the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in downtown Seattle are equipped with fire-suppression systems, said state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lauren Penning.

“However, our tunnel crews occasionally disable the fire-suppression system for up to a week at a time while they perform routine maintenance tests to ensure that the system is functioning properly.”

During those test periods, the Department of Transportation prohibits drivers from transporting flammable cargo through the tunnels as a safety measure, she said. That’s why those messages are posted.

The state also e-mails or faxes known flammable-cargo carriers and the Washington State Trucking Association. Truckers who violate a ban are subject to a hazardous-materials citation, a criminal traffic violation with a mandatory court appearance and a fine determined by a judge.

And yes, such citations have been issued, said Ray Norris, in the State Patrol’s commercial-vehicle division.

Q: Lots of people have lots of notions about where Seattle’s red-light cameras ought to be placed. The problem is: whom to tell?

Ravenna resident Jef Jaisun has suggested a camera be pointed at southbound Montlake Boulevard Northeast from the Northeast 45th Street overpass at University Village. A West Seattle man points to California Avenue Southwest at Fauntleroy Way Southwest, because he says traffic from the Fauntleroy ferry tends to run red lights a lot. And someone else has proposed busy 15th Avenue Northwest at Northwest 85th Street in Crown Hill.

Says Jaisun: “There are times of the day when [Montlake Boulevard] is completely gunnysacked, and it’s not limited to rush hours. If the [Montlake] bridge goes up, which it does a lot this time of year, traffic can back up all the way to the five-corners intersection at 45th and Northeast Blakeley Street/Sand Point Way Northeast.

“It’s a notorious traffic bottleneck which will only get worse as new condo projects continue to be built north of U Village.”

But is that why drivers run red lights in that area?

City Hall recently served notice on residents that more traffic cameras will be going up at 18 more intersections this year to nab red-light runners. Violators will be subject to a $124 ticket — up from $101 since the start of the city’s pilot project more than a year ago to test the effectiveness of red-light cameras.

City officials say the first cameras installed at four Seattle intersections have proved pre-emptive as well as profitable. There’s been a marked drop in violations for running red lights and in the severity of traffic collisions at those intersections. Fines brought in more than $1 million in a year.

The city has made no secret of where its red-light cameras are located. They’re publicized on city Web sites. So, how open is the city to citizen help in picking new spots?

A: Mike Quinn, a strategic adviser for the Seattle Police Department, said he’s keeping track of all suggestions. For the locations already selected, a team considered frequency of accidents and a test count of red-light runners at certain intersections. The team also considered geographic equity, he said.

“All parts of the city really have a problem,” he said, “so we want to be equitable.”

Here’s how nabbing a red-light runner works: The cameras take photos and video from behind a vehicle, capturing both the license plate and the traffic signal. Those images are sent to an Arizona data center, where they are reviewed. After Seattle police look at them, the city mails a traffic citation to the vehicle’s registered owner.

Of the nearly two dozen intersections on the city’s updated list, a half-dozen or so were nominated by citizens, Quinn said.

To find out locations of cameras and where new ones are going, search for “red-light camera” in the seattletimes.com archive, or see Mayor Greg Nickels’ Web page, www.seattle.gov/news/detail.asp?ID=8054&dept=40.The final evaluation report from the city’s pilot project is posted on the Police Department’s Web page, at www.seattle.gov/police/publications/default.htm.

Is there a problem intersection the city has overlooked? E-mail your suggestion to: Traffic.Signals@seattle.gov. Quinn says he has a file started for nominations.