December 22, 2014

Work zone plagued by scofflaws

There’s a serious case of drivers ignoring safety, in a western Wisconsin construction zone. The $7.5 million project will place four roundabouts, new curb and gutter, lighting and signage on Highway 65, just north of I-94 in the St. Croix County community of Roberts. That is, if motorists stop interfering. “People are moving the barricades and driving right through our work zone,” explained project engineer Dave Koepp with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. “In some cases we’ll just have bare grade gravel done, things like that. They’ll be people setting pipe, working in the area, and the traveling public just motors right through.”

Koepp said, while he is familiar with motorists driving through closed work zones by mistake, this type of activity is new to him. “I’ve never had people blatantly moving my traffic control, to come through a work zone,” he said. “They’re very bold. We can be standing right there, working right there, and they’ll move barricades to come through.”

While the disruptions haven’t significantly delayed the project, there are real safety concerns. “You get that mentality that you’re working in a closed area. You aren’t watching for cars coming by right behind you, down on a road that’s been torn out. You turn around, and here’s car going by at 35 miles an hour.” There have been no injuries to either work crews or motorists, and St. Croix County Sheriff’s deputies have issued a number of tickets. The project is due for completion in November.