ELIZABETHTON — Gap Creek Road could be a short cut to some criminal charges.
Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes is warning motorists that ignoring the “Road Closed” signs could lead to a ticket that is not for a traffic violation.
“The charges are criminal offenses, not traffic violations,” Mathes said Thursday.
He said the Tennessee Department of Transportation has contracted with the sheriff’s department to conduct extra patrols on the highway, which has been closed while construction crews make improvements to the narrow and curvy highway. The project is scheduled to be completed on Oct. 31, 2014.
Mathes said there are nine homes beyond the closed section of the highway past the intersection with Tester Road. Those residents are allowed to use the closed highway, but it is closed to the general public during the current phase of construction.
There are large orange and white barricades that tell motorists that the road is closed. Mathes said some motorists have been ignoring the signs and going around them. “Some have even moved the barriers out of the way,” Mathes said.
“Whether it is a ‘Road Closed’ sign or a speed limit, those signs are put there for a reason,” said Mark Nagi, Community Relations Officer for TDOT’s Region 1.
In addition to the increased law enforcement presence on the road, Mathes said he hopes that when the construction crews “start breaking the pavement,” that the drivers will be discouraged from using the closed highway.
Deputy Clerk Johnny Blankenship of the Carter County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office said part of the problem is with people from other regions who are unfamiliar with the area who are being directed to use the road by their global positioning systems. He said these people told him they have seen the closed road signs, but there are no detours.
There are electronic signs notifying motorists of the road closure several miles from the barricades.
Nagi said TDOT notifies GPS companies about closed roads, but there are several independent companies.