Crews clear homeless camps by I-90 Thursday after more vehicles hit by debris
A pair of homeless encampments along I-90 near Rainier Avenue were removed Thursday, in the wake of the latest incidents where rocks and debris have been thrown onto Seattle freeways.
There have been over 180 instances where vehicles driving along I-5 and I-90 in Seattle have been hit by debris since April, primarily near the Mount Baker Tunnel and Rainier Avenue exits. That includes an incident on Tuesday afternoon, where seven more vehicles were hit by rocks while driving on I-90 near Rainier Avenue.
Police arrested a 41-year old Seattle male suspect (originally reported as a 31-year-old) after Tuesday’s incidents.
So far, at least two people believed to be living in an encampment along I-90 have been arrested for throwing debris onto the roadway. That had the Washington State Department of Transportation and Washington State Patrol conduct a survey of the area this week, ultimately determining that the camps posed a safety risk, and “must be removed” quickly.
On Thursday, WSDOT, WSP, and Seattle city workers began removing debris from the area. They provided outreach to people in the area and offer storage for their personal possessions. WSDOT also did work to “modify the site to discourage anyone from occupying the site.”
KIRO 7 TV’s Ranji Sinha was on scene Thursday as the cleanup began in the morning.
As these incidents have continued along I-5 and I-90, local law enforcement has increased patrols, while WSDOT has worked to trim back brush in areas next to the freeways to reduce the ability of offenders to hide from police.
While WSDOT has stressed that it is “not a social service agency,” it said Tuesday that the danger posed by the encampment along I-90 must be “addressed immediately.”
WSDOT head Roger Millar further expanded on the department’s strategy moving forward as well, noting that “this is not a homeless camp issue.”
“This is a criminal activity and public safety issue,” Millar said during a Washington State Transportation Commission meeting on Wednesday. “We are taking action to protect the public, but it is not a change in our approach to homeless encampments in the state right-of-way — it’s addressing an immediate pubic safety concern.”
A spokesperson from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Office released the following statement Tuesday:
The City of Seattle is working in partnership with WSDOT to address the urgent and serious public safety concerns at multiple encampments along I-90. Seattle and WSDOT are working together to address this public safety issue immediately.
While the encampment is on WSDOT property, Seattle Parks has worked with WSDOT to maintain this area over the years through a joint agreement. We are working together to utilize city contracted providers to the individuals living in the encampment and city staff to help with storage which will be reimbursed by WSDOT.
This past legislative session, Mayor Durkan and Governor Inslee fought to add at least $400 million statewide to address homelessness so WSDOT and the City could have the appropriate resources to address this issue as there are thousands of individuals living unsheltered on WSDOT properties and City parks and sidewalks.