St. Louis County Police seek to close legal loophole to enforce speed limits in work zones


Reportedly dangerous conditions for construction workers on a recent road project near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport are the catalyst for possible county law changes in the near future.

St. Louis County Police hope to fix a legal loophole to set up and enforce special speed limits in work zones on county roads.

Motorists on Lambert International Boulevard apparently weren’t slowing down for workers trying to repair and resurface part of the road.

The project wrapped within the last two weeks, an airport spokesman said. But workers’ concerns about traffic conditions during construction appeared to catch the attention of county law enforcement.

“The contractors have taken all of the necessary steps to ensure the safety of their workers and provide for minimum disruption of vehicular traffic,” St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch wrote in a June 10 letter to County Executive Charlie Dooley.

“They have placed the necessary signage informing the public of the work area, lane closures and recommended speed limits; however, the airport police department has still received many complaints from the workers that drivers are ignoring these warnings …,” the chief’s letter stated.

But as long as drivers adhered to the regular, 35 mph posted speed limit — and didn’t cause an accident by driving recklessly — authorities could do little to slow them down, said Sgt. Bob Frohne of the Patrol Ancillary Services Unit.

No county ordinances currently exist to give authorities the means to establish and enforce special speed limits in work zones on county roads.

The equivalent Missouri statute applies only to state highways.

“I don’t know if it was an oversight, that nobody ever thought to do it. But to my knowledge the only time it’s ever come up … it was brought to my attention by the airport police department,” Frohne said.

Oversight or not, county police last week asked the County Council to consider adding an ordinance to the county’s traffic code to solve the problem.

“The director of highways and traffic is authorized to establish special construction zone speed limits for roadways within the unincorporated areas and roadways designated as part of the County Arterial Roadway System that lie within incorporated municipalities,” according to the suggested ordinance language.

Also before the council is a new airport code ordinance that would give the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport director the authority to establish speed limits in work zones on roads owned by the Airport Authority.

The airport director first would need approval from the director of highways and traffic.

Both ordinances would prohibit drivers from exceeding special speed limits and passing other vehicles in work zones where the appropriate signs are posted and one or more workers are present.

As proposed, the ordinances don’t outline a specific penalty for motorists that violate them, although the first ordinance includes a footnote that suggests including an additional section on “an enhanced penalty or doubling of fines assessed.”

The County Council eventually will determine that penalty, Frohne said.

Missouri law imposes a minimum $250 fine for motorists who speed and pass in work zones on state highways.

Councilmen heard the ordinance requests at their June 16 meeting and subsequently directed the county counselor to draft legislation for the proposal.