Motorists have been moving barricades and driving through the construction site east of Pine River at the County Roads 1 and 44 intersection where a roundabout is being constructed. This practice is expensive, dangerous and illegal.

The road project started in August and is expected to be finished before the end of the year; however, motorists going around barricades are slowing progress at the job site.

When it is done, this intersection will be Cass County's first roundabout.

"They are choosing to build a roundabout there to make it a safer intersection," said Cass County Sheriff's Lt. Brad Rittgers. "For years it's been a four-way stop. Studies were done; we've had some crashes there, including a fatality crash. It was determined a roundabout would be the best fit for that intersection."

In addition to leaving ruts in the dirt work that sometimes must be repaired before work crews can commence construction, motorists driving through the site risk damage to utility work being done at the intersection.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

"Part of the underground work is some utility work and drain work. Utilities are being moved and redone. That's kind of where our issue comes in. For the last couple weeks on weekends and evenings, we've had folks moving barricades and detour signs and traveling through the project and in a couple of cases getting stuck. They are potentially causing damage to not only their car but the project as well. What we're trying to do is ask motorists to follow the detour and respect it, and not go around barricades, not move barricades and stay out of the construction area."

Even without trenches full of utilities, construction zones are not safe places for motorists to drive.

"It's really a safety issue for them and also the workers in the construction area," Rittgers said. "There is major construction going there and heavy equipment and utilities being moved."

Law enforcement is stepping up patrols to catch those responsible. Depending on circumstances, fines issued in the work zone could be increased due to ongoing construction.

"It is illegal to go beyond the barricades into a zone," Rittgers said. "We're going to be doing extra patrols in the area. If we find that happening, or find a vehicle that's gone around barricades or moved barricades, citations will be issued. Potentially, if there's work happening, citations can carry a heavier fine in a work zone."

Overall, the act of driving through a construction zone such as this is not only illegal, it is also dangerous, can slow down progress of the construction project and increase costs for taxpayers. Motorists are asked to respect the barricades and be patient while following recommended detours to reach their destinations.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.