Washington State Patrol troopers monitor onramp violators

Gene Dell of Silver Lake writes: My concern is the southbound I-5 onramp from 128th Street SW. The metered lanes fill up rapidly in the mornings, with the law-abiding drivers waiting for their turn to access the freeway.

These days when it’s darker later, usually between 5:45 and 7 a.m., hundreds of single drivers illegally use the unmetered carpool-lane onramp.

These vehicles include cars and commercial vehicles with their logos and phone numbers displayed for all to see. Some even go to the trouble of tinting their windows so it’s difficult to tell there is only one person in the vehicle.

It seems to me that in these days of budget shortfalls that a little bit of diligence by our state troopers could net some much needed revenue for our empty state coffers.

Washington state trooper Keith Leary responds: Troopers assigned to south Snohomish County frequently patrol this particular ramp for carpool lane violators, along with other ramps and lanes in the area. A toll-free telephone line is set up specifically for people to report single drivers who use carpool lanes: 1-877-764-HERO (4376).

People who call are asked to provide the license plate number of the violating vehicle; its make, model and color; and the date, time and direction of travel.

The registered owner will be notified in writing that the vehicle has been observed in the carpool lane containing only a single occupant. If a trooper stops a driver in the lane as a single occupant, the penalty is $124.

The following is the breakdown of where the money goes when a traffic ticket is written by the WSP.

Of the citation fines, 57 percent goes to the local jurisdiction wherein the citation was issued and 43 percent is remitted to the Public Safety Education Account.

This account is used to promote traffic safety education, highway safety, criminal justice training, crime victims’ compensation, judicial education, the judicial information system, civil representation of indigent persons, winter recreation parking, drug court operations, and state game programs. The Public Safety Education Account funds less than 5 percent of the Washington State Patrol budget, primarily the crime lab, which includes the meth response team and the criminal identification section.

Don Bakker of Marysville writes: I have an idea to reduce accidents on U.S. 2. It could be made into a one-way road, alternating east and west each hour, possibly with a guide car leading the way to control speed and a toll each way.

Meghan Pembroke, WSDOT communications, responds: We share drivers’ concerns about safety and traffic flow on U.S. 2 and we are working on a variety of improvements to the highway. We appreciate getting feedback and ideas from the public.

There are many factors that would make it prohibitively expensive and difficult to convert U.S. 2 to a one-way road with alternating traffic. While it might help reduce collisions, holding one direction of U.S. 2 traffic for an hour would cause significant backups and delays for drivers, including commuters, freight and recreational traffic. We would also see increased congestion on connecting roads and state routes such as I-5, Highway 9 and Highway 522.

An alternating traffic operation would require considerable Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol staff time, as well as new equipment, striping and signage. For comparison purposes, operating the reversible express lanes on I-90 and I-5 in Seattle requires a dedicated team to make sure the roadways are clear and then reverse the direction of traffic twice a day, as well as specialized equipment, striping and signing.

The I-5 express lanes are a little more than seven miles long and the I-90 express lanes are about five miles long. U.S. 2, on the other hand, runs about 65 miles between I-5 in Everett and Stevens Pass. Most of this section of U.S. 2 is a managed access highway and has many uncontrolled driveways and intersections. All of these opportunities for accessing U.S. 2 would increase the risk of serious collisions involving wrong-way drivers if there was an alternating traffic operation.

E-mail Street Smarts at stsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your city of residence.

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