Traffic signs being tampered withConstruction continues on Wisconsin Highway 65 in St. Croix County, but not without issues of traveler safety. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation said moving traffic signs can be very dangerous to everyone involved.
Construction continues on Wisconsin Highway 65 in St. Croix County, but not without issues of traveler safety.
Recently, traffic signs have been disappearing, barricades are being moved and travelers are repositioning tubular markers to drive through construction zones. All of these activities are illegal and could cost taxpayers money, but most importantly they create issues of safety.
Chris Ouellette, regional communications manager for the Northwest region of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, said the main reason construction is being done on Highway 65 is because of the high number of accidents the DOT has recorded at the intersections that are being improved.
“The reason we’re doing those improvements is to make these intersections safe, or safer, and we certainly don’t want to have anybody injured or killed while we’re trying to make them safer,” Ouellette said.
The traffic signs protect drivers and construction workers alike, Ouellette said. They protect construction workers from passing cars and they protect cars from wet cement, or other dangerous road conditions like missing bridges.
Capt. Jeff Klatt of the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office reminds travelers that state statutes outline fines and jail time for such activity. Statutes state that anyone who removes, takes down, alters the position of, or moves barriers is subject to a fine of $263.50, 10 to 60 days in jail, or both. Stolen signs may also end up costing taxpayers money, as the contractors are not required to pay under no fault or unforeseen circumstances.
David Koepp, the project leader for the Highway 65 reconstruction, asks that the public “stay out of areas that are closed and to bear with us though construction.”
He reminds motorists that there is a reason for traffic control measures and that safety is number one. Taking, moving or altering traffic signs, creates a dangerous scenario. Taking time to move signs and barricades back into place also delays work and progress.
Ouellette said it usually takes around six to eight years to plan a construction project like the Highway 65 effort, and the traffic controls are a part of that plan from early on.
While road construction is rarely popular, Ouellette said that this amount of tampering with traffic signs is unprecedented.
“It’s even happening during the day,” Ouellette said. “They’re even finding people getting out of their vehicles during the day, moving stuff around, driving around barricades, right in the middle of the day.”
The Highway 65 construction is scheduled to wrap up in November, but Ouellette said continued tampering with road signs could push the construction wrap-up date back farther.
If anyone sees someone moving or taking the signs, contact the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department or the Wisconsin State Patrol.