100+ drivers ticketed for cutting through GR road project

Police patrolling during monthlong project on Leonard Street and Fuller Avenue

Leonard Street
Road closure signs cross Leonard Street and Fuller Avenue NE in Grand Rapids during road construction. (Aug. 2, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The mix of drivers frustrated by a construction closure and patrons trying to pass through the Leonard Street NE and Fuller Avenue area is proving to be a dangerous combination, according to Grand Rapids police.

“They might be late for work, they may be late for school. And they see that quick cut-through. (They) often tie speeding through that parking lot faster than they would if they were a patron of that business. It’s extremely dangerous,” said Sgt. Cathy Williams.

That danger was on display when a 6-year-old rode her scooter into the parking lot of Adobe In-and-Out near the corner of Leonard and Fuller. A driver came from the back of the parking lot and was heading towards the child when 24 Hour News 8’s Joe LaFurgey warned her.

“Watch it!” he repeatedly yelled.

The driver, who stopped in time, was trying to find a way through the intersection, which has been closed for construction since Monday.

It’s a problem the child’s grandmother, Michelle Bledsoe, has witnessed since the road work began.

“They (are) constantly flying, coming through off of Fuller,” she said. “You know, (they’re) coming through and they’re not really paying attention to people walking through.”

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Drivers continue to venture down both Leonard and Fuller, cutting through nearby parking lots when they find they can’t get through the intersection, and creating a dangerous situation for other drivers and pedestrians in the lot.

“There’s no signs anywhere,” said the driver who had the close call with the girl on the scooter.

However, 24 Hour News 8 checked for signs east of the intersection on Leonard Street NE and found obvious warnings.

Drivers keep going around the signs, thinking they can still sneak through. Many end up flustered and frustrated when they have to turn around.

“That’s why I’m trying to teach her, you’ve got to look both ways,” Bledsoe said about her granddaughter. “You know, cars… some people just don’t care.”

The Grand Rapids Police Department says the entire roadway can’t be shut down because construction crews need to get to the job and customers need to get to businesses. The department is trying to curtail the problem by posting officers at the intersection when they’re not answering other calls.

“It is zero tolerance for anyone seen entering a parking lot, going through that parking lot and exiting the other side without patronizing that business. (They) will be written a citation,” said Williams.

As of Thursday afternoon, GRPD had written 101 tickets to violators, for using public or private property to avoid a traffic control device. The tickets carry a $135 fine and two points.

Grand Rapids District Court workers say they’ve been busy answering questions by those who have received the citations.

Police say they hope the tickets will change behaviors and make the area safer during the construction project, which is slated for completion at the end of the month.