Cross the line, get a $388 ticket

CANYON PARK – They may look like just another couple of white painted lines.

They’re not. Under state law, the lines should be considered a barrier. Drive across them, and you could pay a $388 fine.

They are the triangle-shaped zones painted on roadways that extend from onramps and offramps. Called gore points, they are designed to allow traffic to merge easily onto the highways.

When traffic backs up on extended ramps – such as the southbound interchange from the Bothell-Everett Highway to I-405 – some drivers try to avoid the traffic jam by cutting across the painted lines.

On Tuesday morning, the Washington State Patrol was there to bust those people.

In about an hour, troopers wrote 14 tickets.

“It’s a collision-causing infraction,” said trooper Kirk Rudeen, a patrol spokesman. “You’re not supposed to drive across them. There’s a reason they are there.”

The painted lines allow drivers to accelerate and safely merge at highway speeds, he said.

The quarter-mile onramp at the Canyon Park interchange is well designed, Rudeen said.

Still, in morning rush-hour traffic, cars back up waiting to get on the freeway.

That’s when drivers try to bypass the backup and cut across the gore point.

Accidents in the area have increased more than 50 percent since 2003, according to a patrol report.

The gore-point problem got so bad that several people called the state patrol to complain, Rudeen said.

“They’re seeing it and saying, ‘Hey, that’s not right,’ ” he said.

That’s what prompted Douglas Witt, 55, of Everett, to call police.

“I called in asking for some added support,” he said.

Almost every morning during his 45-minute commute to Kirkland, he watches drivers dart across the onramp and cut drivers off, he said.

“Your presence is needed,” he told police. “I don’t see you there.”

Typically, troopers cite up to 30 drivers a month for cutting across the lines, Rudeen said. Tuesday’s patrol got about half a month’s worth in an hour, thanks to help from a State Patrol airplane.

The plane circles the area and uses a high-tech video camera to zoom in and catch people breaking the law. It relays the information to the troopers on the ground.

“The aircraft make working something like this so safe, so simple and so effective,” Rudeen said.

The videotape from the plane can be introduced as evidence before a judge, he said.

Troopers will be out again today monitoring the area.

From his perch several hundred feet above the road, trooper Troy Davis said he was surprised at how many drivers were cutting into traffic.

Every time an officer on the ground finished writing a ticket, Davis spotted another car breaking the law.

“This was easy,” he said. “How many did we get? I lost count.”

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@ heraldnet.com.

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