Even if the signs directing traffic at Seventh and Massachusetts streets had been posted at the legal height, local police officers used poor judgment in deciding to crack down on drivers stymied by a downtown construction project this week. Traffic patterns that change every time construction shifts are confusing and annoying. There's no sense in police making the situation worse.
Traffic citations that were issued to people who turned right from Seventh Street onto Massachusetts earlier this week are expected to be dismissed because it was determined that signs announcing "no right turn" were not posted at the proper height. The implication, however, is that once the signs are raised, the ticketing will resume.
Instead of instructing officers to station themselves at the corner and wait to write tickets, why not put an officer in the intersection to direct traffic and help motorists? With the same, or even less, manpower, the officers could have eased the flow of traffic and soothed motorists concerns rather than pulling them over and issuing $102 tickets.
This is an embarrassing situation for Lawrence. Contractors should know the proper height and placement for the traffic signs, which continue to be confusing. And the conduct of local police officers almost borders on harassment. The same officers who issued dozens of warnings but precious few tickets to people who willfully disobeyed the city's three-year-old fireworks ban apparently couldn't wait to entrap people confused by mangled traffic patterns in downtown. One of the ticket recipients was a 62-year-old woman who had come from Kansas City, Kan., to shop. Welcome to Lawrence, ma'am.
A police spokesman contended officers were just doing their job by responding to the safety concerns of road crews. If the contractor had done its job by properly marking the routes, much of the hazard could have been avoided. If police needed to intervene, directing traffic or making sure the travel patterns were more clearly marked would have contributed far more to safety than stopping people and writing tickets.
Construction projects create significant confusion and inconvenience for motorists. Contractors and law enforcement personnel should be working together to try to minimize that inconvenience and maximize traffic safety. The game of "gotcha" played by officers this week didn't accomplish either goal.