Artist's civil disobedience helps motorists navigate

— An artist upset by a confusing Los Angeles freeway sign took matters into his own hands by scaling the sign and adding directions so good that state officials couldn't tell.

Richard Ankrom, 46, said he thought of the project three years ago but didn't actually do it until last August. As thousands of motorists passed below, Ankrom went to work in a hard hat and orange reflective vest to avoid raising suspicion.

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AP Photo

Artist Richard Ankrom sits below a television displaying a video image of him placing a fake Interstate 5 sign over an official CalTrans road sign on the 101 freeway near downtown Los Angeles. Ankrom, upset by a confusing Los Angeles freeway sign, took matters into his own hands by scaling the sign and adding directions so good that state officials couldn't tell.

His pickup truck carried a contractor-style logo on the side that read: Aesthetic De Construction.

What Ankrom did was put the word 'north' over an emblem for Interstate 5. The sign is two miles before the exit, plenty of time for motorists to plan their transition from the Harbor Freeway to the correct lanes of I-5.

Ankrom studied freeway signs and downloaded specifications from the Federal Highway Administration's Web site. His biggest challenge was finding reflective buttons that make up each letter, but he tracked down replica buttons sold by a company in Tacoma, Wash.

The work is so genuine that state transportation officials didn't know it was "functional art" until a newspaper column leaked the news last month. There are no plans to take down the sign or pursue charges.

"The experts are saying that Mr. Ankrom did a fantastic job," said Jeanne Bonfilio, a state transportation spokeswoman. "They thought it was an internal job."

But is it art?

"It needed to be done," Ankrom said. "Hopefully it will help people out, which was the whole point."

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