Drivers going north on Roe Avenue towards I-35 this summer may have been confused by a new speed limit sign that popped up and then disappeared near the Roeland Park city limit.
The brief appearance of the sign was the result of a driver who was unhappy with a speeding citation that has now worked its way through court.
The case involves the speeding ticket, KDOT, KCK, Roeland Park and an appeal to Johnson County courts.
John Geither received a speeding ticket from a Roeland Park police officer this spring while headed north on Roe Avenue toward the I-35 exchange. Geither was clocked at 49 mph in a 35 mph zone. But Geither believes he was in a 45 mph zone.
Roeland Park’s speed limits are set by ordinance and Roe Avenue’s 35 mph is the highest in the city. According to police, the officer who clocked Geither was sitting near the city limit shooting his radar to track northbound cars in Roeland Park, a 35 mph zone.
At the city limit line into Kansas City, Kan. the speed limit changes to 45 mph, but no sign marking that point was installed. Although Geither says he does not know which city he was in when clocked on radar, he believed the area should be 45 mph and he convinced KDOT in June that a sign was needed to mark the transition.
KDOT installed a 45 mph hour sign for northbound traffic, which Geither believed vindicated his position. The problem, according to Roeland Park police, was that KDOT installed the sign not at the city limit, but inside Roeland Park, which conflicted with the city’s speed limits.
KDOT removed the sign and placed it on the north side of I-35, acknowledging in an email to Geither that it originally had been placed 76 feet inside Roeland Park, to which the city objected.
The speed limit and the signage outside of Roeland Park are completely in the hands of KCK, Roeland Park Police Chief John Morris says, but KCK or KDOT can’t put a 45 mph sign in Roeland Park’s 35 mph zone. They could place it right at the city limit. Even then, Geither was still over the limit and was tagged before the area in question. “Ignorance of the law is not a defense to prosecution,” he says.
On the southbound side of Roe coming off of I-35 or down the 18th Street Expressway, drivers see a 35 mph sign shortly after they enter Roeland Park. KDOT installed the short-lived northbound sign directly opposite that one. Geither fought his traffic ticket in court on the theory that the 45 mph northbound zone should start at the same point of the southbound sign. He also made some strong statements about it in Facebook messages to the city, suggesting it amounted to a speed trap. The city responded that the speed limit does not change inside the city limits.
Eventually, Geither was found guilty of speeding in municipal court and appealed it to Johnson County District Court. The case was dismissed because the prosecutor and officer had conflicts and couldn’t show up for the hearing. Geither did end up paying an appeal bond of $96, but not the full $190 ticket.