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WSDOT head apologizes for ‘suicide’ comment about I-405 express toll lanes

WSDOT CEO Lynn Peterson, above, offered an apology and set the record straight after she said a driver opted not to commit suicide because of the I-405 express toll lanes. (WSDOT Flickr)
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It was weighing on Lynn Peterson’s mind. So much so that on Tuesday, the CEO of the Washington State Department of Transportation apologized.

“Ever since I left the station I thought it needed to be clarified having re-read the email,” Peterson told KTTH’s Todd Herman.

Peterson was recently a guest on Herman’s show to discuss the affects of I-405’s new express toll lanes. While talking about the negative and positive experiences drivers have had on the corridor, Peterson noted that one person wrote to her stating that they opted not to commit suicide because of the toll lanes and the speedier drive.

“But I am also getting stories about people who — literally one person was ready to commit suicide because of their life and how it was being impacted by I-405,” Peterson told Herman on Dec. 10. “They wrote us and said, ‘you saved my life.'”

That wasn’t an accurate account, however, as Peterson explained Tuesday. Rather, the email in question related a sad story of a Puget Sound commuter stuck in the grind of life. But suicide was not a feature of the letter.

Peterson read a portion of the email for Herman:

“I wanted to take a moment to provide my praise for the I-405 toll lanes. This is truly impactful change that significantly improves my life. We had no choices to move closer to my work, the housing market fell apart, our home underwater. There are no high tech work options for me locally. For years, there I have sat in the parking lot of 405. The stress and anxiety I have endured over the years can’t even be measured. I remember times leaving work two hours before having to pick up my son from childcare only to have my commute take 2.5 hours that day. I’ve missed countless meetings, appointments and so many days feeling helpless. The grind of it all, day after day, has resulted in years of depression, anger, you name it. I’ve even considered crazy things like walking away from my mortgage, or quitting my job and letting the bank just take everything. The mind comes up with wild ideas and options when you feel helpless.

Peterson didn’t finish reading the letter but said that the person continued to say, “thank you, thank you, thank you” and expressed how they have benefited from the new express toll lanes on I-405.

“It was the way I went through it, and I wanted to apologize,” Peterson said. “Because this person’s life is real and I didn’t want it to be taken out of context.”

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