Police Alert: Increase in traffic violations during construction project

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette While detour signs along the M-26 approach to the north end of the Portage Lake bridge clearly indicate the left-hand approach onto the bridge is prohibited, Hancock Police are seeing an increasing number of motorists ignoring the signage and executing the turn.

HANCOCK — The Hancock Police have seen a significant increase in traffic-related violations, resulting in an increase in citations, and one of the problem areas is the construction zone on the north end of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge.

Specifically, motorists are executing left-hand turns onto the bridge from Ripley, according to Wayne Butler, police chief.

Butler said that while the Michigan Department of Transportation has posted direction and detour signs all along the M-26 approach to the bridge, and on Front Street, a number motorists are ignoring them. The illegal maneuvers are putting construction workers, as well as traffic on the bridge, at risk.

“One of the things with the construction zone,” Butler said, “is the difference if it’s actually during (work hours), and there are people in the construction zone. We’ve had people who have been making the left-hand turn from Ripley onto the bridge, and the detour clearly goes through Hancock along Front Street.”

In addition to these illegal turns, Butler said motorists regularly execute illegal left-hand turns from Front Street, to get to Ripley via the underpass.

“We have no control over the cones being damaged, and we don’t go out and put the cones out,” Butler said, “but there are some pretty good sized gaps in them.”

Butler said he believes motorists see the gaps in the cones, look quickly to see if there are no police vehicles present, then execute left turns.

“Then, when they wind up getting pulled over and given a citation, they try to play the ‘ignorance card,'” Butler said. “They claim, ‘I didn’t see it.’ Or, ‘I didn’t know it was sign-posted.’ If you go through the city, you’ll clearly see that it’s sign-posted, and it’s clearly detoured. Sign-posted detours, even to the point where the officers are even bringing photographs to court, because we’re seeing more people wanting to fight these charges now.”

While it is every person’s right to have a trial for traffic citations, every trial costs taxpayers in time for the officer, prosecutor, judge and related court personnel and staff.

Butler said in order to protect the lives and safety of everyone involved, his department has increased traffic enforcement.

“It’s not a campaign to give everybody a ticket,” he said, “because we are giving more warnings than we do traffic citations.”