Street Smarts: Carpool ramps taunt solo drivers

EVERETT — Margit Merlin would like to avoid driving more than 2 miles out of her way to get to the park-and-ride lot at 112th Street SE and I-5 in south Everett.

Unfortunately, she and other drivers who are alone in their vehicles can’t — legally, that is.

The issue at the park-and-ride is a unique one in Snohomish County. The lot, located in the I-5 median, has its own ramps providing direct access to and from the freeway for carpools and buses. However, unlike other lots with direct access from the carpool lanes, no nearby on- or offramps are available for single occupancy vehicles.

Drivers who are alone, even if they are picking up or dropping off people riding buses from the lot, may not legally use the ramps at 112th. The fine for violations is $124.

To reach I-5 they must go north to Everett Mall Way or south to 128th Street SW. Drivers must take 112th either to Highway 527 to the east or to Seventh Avenue SE or Fourth Avenue W. to the west to reach these I-5 access points.

Merlin, of Marysville, works a graveyard shift in Mill Creek and sometimes likes to take the bus to Seattle in the morning. The Ash Way park-and-ride lot, the one closest to Mill Creek, is often full, she said, while parking is often available at the 112th Street lot.

“It seems like a waste of gas and time if single drivers cannot exit from I-5,” Merlin wrote to Street Smarts recently.

The $32 million, 400-space lot at 112th opened last November. It was built to provide an alternative between the Mariner park-and-ride lot off 128th and the Eastmont lot off E. El Capitan Way near the northbound exit to the mall, officials said at the time. The lot also was built on land already owned by the state, saving taxpayers money, officials said. It resulted in 112th being widened, with the city of Everett pitching in on that project.

A wide ramp was built connecting the lot to 112th. Signs leading to ramps to and from the freeway are clearly marked as being for transit and carpools only. Single drivers have been cited for using the ramps, said Trooper Keith Leary of the State Patrol.

It’s hard to tell from citation records which drivers were stopped for using those ramps, but last month, 13 drivers were ticketed for carpool lane violations on I-5 within a mile of the park-and-ride, Trooper Mark Francis said. Nine others were given warnings, he said.

Street Smarts has received several questions about this park-and-ride lot from readers, running the whole spectrum of concerns. A couple expressed frustration at not being able to legally use the ramps though they are dropping off or picking up people at the lot. Another said she sees single drivers using the ramps and asked about enforcement. Another asked if vehicles with two drivers or more may use the ramps even if they’re not using the lot (the answer is yes, according to the State Patrol).

Allowing exceptions for single drivers who use the lot would be too difficult to enforce fairly, said Bruce Gray, a spokesman for Sound Transit, which designed the lot and ramps.

“You don’t have any way to tell who’s doing what,” he said. “The ramps are there for (carpool) users to get to and from those lanes faster.”

It’s not likely that the state Department of Transportation will come to the rescue by building new ramps there anytime soon, spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.

“Even if we had something planned, I’m not sure we’d have the funding for it,” she said. “What is there right now is going to be there for the near future.”

E-mail Street Smarts at Please include your city of residence.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Fatal 2-car crash closes Highway 99 in Lynnwood

Police closed off Highway 99 between 188th Street SW and 196th Street SW while they investigated.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Most Read