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Posted on Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

YOLO: Prankster reprograms East Stadium Boulevard road sign in Ann Arbor

By Ryan J. Stanton


At least one motorist has slowed to take a photo of a road construction sign on East Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor, carrying the acronym "YOLO."

Jeffrey Smith |

This story has been corrected to note that State Street is expected to be open to both north and south traffic by Wednesday.

Road construction signs in the Ann Arbor area have been reprogrammed in the past year or so with racial slurs, warnings of zombie invasions and now something more positive.

"YOLO," reads the digital message board along East Stadium Boulevard near Tappan Middle School.

The acronym, which has gradually invaded our lexicon, stands for "You Only Live Once." YOLO also was spray-painted recently on the side of a local resident's home.

An unknown prankster hacked into and reprogrammed the sign on East Stadium sometime in the last few days. It was brought to the attention of city officials on Sunday afternoon.

Homayoon Pirooz, head of the city's project management unit, said on Monday afternoon the city was trying to get a hold of the company that owns the sign.

"Only the contractor can come back and reprogram it," Pirooz said, acknowledging the city has seen other cases where people have tampered with other message boards.

The sign on Stadium is supposed to read "road construction ahead." The work being done on East Stadium includes replacement of underground water mains between Packard and Brockman Boulevard, and resurfacing from Packard to Washtenaw Avenue.

Traffic is limited to two westbound lanes and one eastbound lane. Crews already have installed new water main on the north side and are now working to install a main on the south side.

The road should be resurfaced and reopened by the end of October, Pirooz said. The nearby Stadium bridges are scheduled to reopen to traffic on Nov. 14.

"Everything we're working on is on schedule. I don't have any reports on anything being late or behind," Pirooz said. "Things are moving very nicely."

State Street, which was partially closed as part of the Stadium bridges project, is expected to be open to traffic in both directions by Wednesday. Pirooz said there's a chance the Stadium bridges project could be finished earlier than planned, but not by much.

A newly repaved portion of Hill Street should be open by the beginning of next week in time for the Ann Arbor Art Fair, Pirooz said.

Meanwhile, work on Packard is expected to be done by the end of August, and work on Dexter Avenue should be done by early November.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

You Obviously Lack Originality


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

Hasn't the reprogramming of road signs lost its sizzle by now? It was sort of funny the first time I saw it, but whoever did this, considering YOLO, needs to show some originality and creativity and do something different. Lame.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

Reminds me of: "L.A. Story is a 1991 American romantic comedy film, written by and starring Steve Martin. Set in Los Angeles, California, it relates a series of episodes in the romantic life of an L.A. TV weatherman. It includes surreal sequences in which he is offered romantic advice flashed to him by a freeway sign. The movie blends romantic comedy with elements that both satirize and celebrate L.A. culture". Perhaps the Ann Arbor signs were reacting to the people's BORED BEYOND BELIEF looks as they sat in a stupor in their cars.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

Television crews have a long-standing policy of not even showing the idiots who run out onto the field during ball games, or other live events. And this is your lead story a day after first running it. The kid's message isn't even original or funny. You're not just encouraging him; you're specifically encouraging all the unoriginal dim bulbs out there. It seems sometimes that all does is highlight the substandard.

say it plain

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 4:09 p.m.

Well, but they actually do more than that, and less... Because they got some good hits and clicks with their earlier YOLO stories, and here was an opp to do some more! TV crews broadcasting stuff people actually would want to see have content that is tends to be light on the interesting or useful content, so.... They probably have the equivalent of SEO analysts dictating which 'stories' to run big ;-)


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

It should have read "YOLO, and you're wasting your precious life away getting stuck in traffic jams brought on by poorly-planned road construction projects."


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

Is this really the top story?

Unusual Suspect

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Would it be too much to ask to rewarding him by showing his "work" in both pictures and in the headline?


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

It's just a dumb prank. I'm more disgusted that "only the contractor can come back and reprogram it." How about we remove whatever bureaucracy is keeping this from being fixed by a 30 second phone call asking them what the password is and what the sign needs to say. I mean, "trying to get a hold of them"? If they're not answering their phones on a business day how about we stop giving them million dollar contracts?

say it plain

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

Best comment here! What a bizarre town this is when the city officials can't even call the people they give construction contracts to so that road signs are fixed quickly!?


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

Let's remember just how informative the sign was originally. "Construction Ahead" Seems like a big blank orange sign on wheels says that without any words on it. Changing this particular sign really caused no harm.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

L'chaim and drewk -- if you read some of the other comments you will see that others recognize what you do not: warning signs around construction are there for a purpose; people working in the area count of drivers knowing what to do; failing to know what to do can be extremely dangerous. This is not some innocent prank. People like you will only wake up when someone gets hurt or worse. I guess that is what it takes for some people.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

Mr. Granger -- you may be correct about drivers not caring, but that is NO excuse for endangering people through altering signs. Construction workers need every break they can get. Maybe you should try standing in the middle of a busy intersection hoping no one is simply not paying attention. I've been there.

Ron Granger

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

You are assuming most drivers care about the signs. In my experience, most don't.

Alex Nickodemus

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

It's really not "hacking" the message board if the control box is left unlocked and the programming device still has the factory preset, or no password on it, which generally seems to be case when these signs are found reprogrammed with a different message.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

YOLO is "Carpe Diem" for stupid people


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

Awesome post. So true. Even hippies stoned out of their minds in the 60's and 70's were conversant on politics and world affairs...they at least knew who the freaking president was, and could name a country or two besides their own. I bet you could get six YOLOers in a room and together they wouldn't be able to find the door.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

By featuring this prank as its top story, is only encouraging more of the same in the future. The perpetrator of this act is loving the publicity you're giving him (or her).

Ann Arbor Bridges

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 11:57 a.m.

Road signs in construction zone are meant to warn people of danger. Changing these signs is a dangerous game. Be sure to folo our project on Facebook and twitter.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

What danger was there ahead? Usually they just note that there is construction ahead. I don't ever remember one that mentioned danger. If there is danger ahead, then traffic needs to be re-routed around it. But then again, maybe the sign could have read "Bridge Out Ahead". That would have been even funnier.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

When does a prank become vandalism?

Ann Arbor Bridges

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 12:04 p.m.

It is vandalism and dangerous. We have men and women working in these construction zones. Signs like this are meant to warn drivers and others of dangerous conditions for their own safety and our workers.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 11:41 a.m.

There is nothing funny about tech savvy egomaniacs who feel compelled to thrust their narcissism onto the public . What's next ? directing people the wrong way down one-way streets?defacing others' property? national security -destroying 'wikileaks'? oh!

Larry Kestenbaum

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 2:30 a.m.

And here I thought YOLO stood for "You Obviously Like Owls". Google that phrase and you'll find there are t-shirts for sale with that expression.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 2:05 a.m.

Did they also sabotage the repair job done on East Stadium? It sure seems like someone forgot a level. Pretty poor job that makes my sitting in traffic for repairs totally worthless.

Stephen Landes

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 1:14 a.m.

A2.COM -- please get your act together: this is not a PRANK! It is potentially dangerous and could be life-threatening. Calling this a prank is on the order of considering graffiti some sort of "artistic expression" instead of what it is -- vandalism. Whoever is doing this hacking is a menace. To accept this as a prank is to rely on the judgement of someone who thinks this is "cute" to decide which signs aren't important enough to be left alone.


Mon, Jul 23, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

This just in: Stephen Landes dies in a tragic accident after seeing a road sign that read 'YOLO' and deciding to go jump in a lake.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

Lighten up. ITS A PRANK. Nobody gets hurt here.

Ann Arbor Bridges

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 12:02 p.m.

Well said.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 1:57 a.m.

Life threatening? How, pray tell?


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 1:12 a.m.

"Only the contractor can come back and reprogram it," they are admitting kids are smarter than them?

Unusual Suspect

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 10:23 p.m.

"'Only the contractor can come back and reprogram it,' Pirooz said" Apparently, troublemakers who grew up without proper parenting can also reprogram them.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 10:04 p.m.

pfft no block letters or animation? weak execution 2/10


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 9:55 p.m.

I'm a big fan of "Zombie invasion ahead" signs. I'm a fan of The Walking Dead comics and TV series. Also, "Zombie invasion ahead" isn't hurting anyone or hate speech. It's just funny.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

Net Flex and I believe Hulu is getting season 2 either this or next month. Can't wait for season 3. Very hooked on the series.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

I will fully support a road sign reading "Get back in the house, Carl!" (+1 for anything 'The Walking Dead'!)


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

Is this domestic terrorism? Tampering with the roads and highways!


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 10:21 p.m.

Most everything out of Lansing has been a capitol offense lately. Can't we all just get along and settle on say.... Guantanamo Bay?

Norman Alred

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 10:04 p.m.

It is! Our Republican friends in Lansing have a bill in the House to make it a capitol offense. It also modifies the constitution for capitol punishment. The House votes this afternoon, the Senate tomorrow, then on to the Governor on Friday. The odds are 50-50 on signature. Meanwhile, everything of consequence is on hold until this major issue is resolved. :-)


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

Hey the new smaller government admninistration has passed 603 already, don't sell them short.

Tom Todd

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 9:42 p.m.

waiting for a law on this

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.



Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

If you drive down State Street during rush one would think there would be a zombie apocalypse coming. Yes, some of the signs are funny but some are not. I guess this one is not.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

For the record, YOLO is not necessarily a positive. It is a metaphor for living recklessly, without thought for the consequences. You can google it if you want more specifics.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

gimme a break...


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

Finally, some answer to the YOLO thing. Thank you.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.

If the password of the device was 12345......then you got what you asked for...


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 9:04 p.m.

Billy, seldon, you are too right. And even if it isn't that easy, google "Reprogram Construction Sign" and see how easy it is. This type of prank doesn't even require hacks, just research.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 8:09 p.m.

I need to be able to vote this up more than once. These signs only get reprogrammed when some fool leaves the default password on them.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

Sooooo....what crazy thing did the YOLOer do after YOLOing that sign? I thought that was what you were supposed to do after uttering this phrase?


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

this is funny...the side of some random person's house, not so much.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

It's not as destructive as painting it on someone's house though. I think generally if people see a sign like that they'll get the general impression there's road work ahead.

Ann Arbor Bridges

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 12:01 p.m.

This is more dangerous. Signs like this in construction zones are meant to warn drivers and others of hazardous conditions.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 7:23 p.m.

"Only the contractor can come back and reprogram it," Pirooz said, acknowledging the city has seen other cases where people have tampered with other message boards. Well, legally, at least.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

"State Street, which was partially closed as part of the Stadium bridges project, is now open to traffic in both directions." Is this correct? It wasn't open both ways at 1pm today.

Ann Arbor Bridges

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Should have said road opens to traffic Wednesday afternoon!

Ann Arbor Bridges

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : noon

We should be open by this afternoon! Follow us on Facebook and twitter to get latest.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

You're right. There was a miscommunication on that. I've corrected the story to note that it's expected to be open to traffic in both directions by Wednesday.


Mon, Jul 9, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

The City posted on Facebook this morning that State will reopen both directions on the 11th.