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Speed Limit Signs In Construction Zones Not Always Visible

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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Investigator Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) – The Federal Highway Administration has ordered a review of the signage at a construction site in northeast Denver after a motorist got a speeding ticket and complained the construction zone signs were improperly posted.

CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger has found portable speed limit signs kept up beyond the federal guideline and motorists being ticketed.

Denver police stopped Neil Slade on East 56th Avenue, just east of Quebec, for going 46 in a 30 mph zone. The fines are doubled in the construction zone and Slade could face $250 for the offense.

“I was informed I was speeding in a work zone.” Slade recalls asking the officer “What construction?” claiming he never saw the speed limit sign.

If traveling behind a large vehicle, Slade claims a driver would never see the portable construction zone signs.

“The whole purpose of reduced speed limit signs are to get people to slow down and if you can’t see the sign what good is it doing?”

CBS4 showed pictures of the construction zone signage to the State Traffic Engineer, Charles Meyer at CDOT, and consulted the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Meyer says portable signs are permitted.

LINK: Read The MUTCD

“Portable signs can be used in some certain circumstances when a permanent sign might not be appropriate. Or, it may just have to be constantly moved,” Meyer said.

The MUTCD says permanent signs are to be erected 7 feet high. The portable signs must be over a foot off the ground and should not be in place more than three days. But in the construction project on East 56th Avenue we found them there much longer.

The city of Denver keeps a close eye on the project and insists that three day limit for portable signs is not a solid rule. Senior Traffic Engineer Justin Schmitz says, “We used some flexibility and engineering judgment for the project to extend that beyond the timeframe. But, they are moved around constantly throughout the site.”

Work zones help protect people and they also bring in money. Denver routinely uses photo radar vans to catch violators. CBS4 spotted more portable signs left up for days on the South Broadway construction project. We asked Skip Guarini, a safety consultant, to have a look at the project.

“I’m not even sure it’s legal,” Guarini points to a sign on the sidewalk far from the side of traffic. “That sign is easily missed by a motorist.”

Guarini also pointed out other issues, including traffic signals missing over some lanes. A driver ran the red light in question as CBS4 was approaching the light. Guarini says, “This is typical of a work zone that is not set up properly.”

The city of Denver says it will comply with the findings of the East 56th Avenue signage review and correct any problems, if they find any. Failure to follow federal laws can mean loss of highway funds.

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