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Word to the wise: Don't use this exit to sneak around traffic on Interstate 5

Trying to skip ahead of I-5 traffic? Don't use this method.

Using the 56th Street exit as a thoroughfare can cost drivers $136 if caught by Washington State Patrol.
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Using the 56th Street exit as a thoroughfare can cost drivers $136 if caught by Washington State Patrol.

Q: I just noticed a newly erected sign on the northbound Interstate 5 South 56th Street exit collector/distributor lane: "All traffic must exit, re-entering freeway prohibited."

I see drivers sometimes avoiding the backup by driving through the exit. Or, they may have just taken the wrong exit and want to get back on the freeway. What law exactly is one breaking by doing this maneuver and what is the fine? Is the State Patrol actually going to be monitoring this and ticketing drivers? — Aaron

A: According to Washington State Patrol Trooper Brooke Bova, this sign has been in place at least since last summer. And yes, state patrol is keeping an eye on it.

When the sign was first put in place, Bova said troopers did some emphasis enforcement to make sure people weren't trying to skip traffic on I-5 north by exiting onto the collector/distributor lanes and then merging back onto the freeway (who among us hasn't had the urge to do that in rush hour traffic?)

Bova said the sign was placed at that spot for a reason: Drivers who were using that exit as a speedy thoroughfare during the evening commute were creating a bottleneck as they tried to merge back onto I-5, much to the chagrin of those who had been slogging it out on the interstate all along.

In a response to questions on Twitter about the state law relevant to that sign, Bova tweeted that disobeying a traffic device, such as this sign, violates state law, which says: "The driver of any vehicle, every bicyclist, and every pedestrian shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device" that is placed there by a lawful authority.

In this case, that lawful authority is the Washington State Patrol, and you can get a $136 ticket if troopers catch you using that exit as a thoroughfare, Bova said.

"If we have the manpower we do it," she said. "You never know when we're going to be there. That is a bad area for us. It does make traffic worse — it bottlenecks people up when they use that as a way to get around traffic."

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud
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