Drivers have racked up more than $12,075 in fines since the Stillwater Police Department started cracking down on people driving around a series of barricades and “Road Closed” signs on Virginia Avenue.
The westbound lane of Virginia Avenue is closed from South Burdick Street to Perkins Road as water utility crews replace a broken water line. A portion of the adjacent sidewalk is also closed.
The road closure blocks the Virginia Avenue entrances to Walmart and several other businesses for traffic approaching from the east. Vehicles exiting the Walmart parking lot onto Virginia Avenue are also prohibited from turning right.
The City of Stillwater is detouring eastbound traffic south on Burdick Street to Third Avenue and asking people to use Perkins Road to reach those businesses.
Acting SPD Public Information Officer Lt. Dale Higgins said the department stepped up enforcement on Virginia Avenue after 1 p.m. Friday when the Water Utility Department reported that several of its workers had almost been hit by cars that were driving around the barricades.
Some people took to social media over the weekend to criticize the enforcement action and suggest the City of Stillwater was doing it simply to issue tickets and collect revenue, while others said they’d had close calls with cars that had gone around the barricades and were driving the wrong way in their lane.
From 1 p.m. Friday through 5 p.m. Monday, SPD officers wrote 75 tickets and gave 26 warnings to drivers ignoring the barricades, More citations were issued Tuesday, but those weren’t in the system yet, Higgins said.
The fine for driving around a barricade onto a closed roadway is $161.
The detour is not as convenient, but the temporary road closure is about the safety of the workers, he said.
“People have got to start respecting road closings,” Higgins said. “They were driving around barricades when we had flooding and we saw what happened.”