CHOKEPOINTS

Sullivan: Rest area blues and its dire situation on the I-5 corridor

Apr 30, 2024, 5:56 AM

rest area...

Exterior of a Washington rest stop (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

There are 47 rest areas in Washington, and they support 24 million people annually.

As you know, I use our rest areas frequently on my trips to Montana. The ones on Interstate 90 are usually in great shape. The ones on Interstate 5 (I-5) closer to Seattle are another story. We have done multiple stories over the years on how some of the rest areas on I-5 have had to be closed for repairs and cleaning because of homeless encampments that have taken them over.

More on Washington’s rest areas: WSDOT claims $500M needed to fix state’s ‘declining’ rest stops

KIRO radio listener Darcia asked me to check into specific rest areas along I-5.

“I request you cover the dire situation with rest areas on the I-5 corridor traveling South from Arlington,” she wrote me. “My dad lives in Belfair and I live in Arlington. When I go to visit, there are virtually no rest areas. Are there plans to open the southbound rest area in Everett? And why wasn’t there a southbound rest area by Federal Way when there is one when traveling north I-5? ”

I know that the southbound rest area at Silver Lake in South Everett well. It’s not too far from my house. It was closed down in 2019 because of a failing roof. There was also damage and vandalism at the site, attributed to a homeless camp at the location. The future of this rest area is still up in the air.

The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) just completed its first full review of the rest areas in 15 years. A study of truck parking is now underway. What happens to the Silver Lake rest area will be decided after this review is finished at the end of the year. Converting it to truck parking only is a possible outcome.

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According to WSDOT, the need for a rest area there is not as vital. The Silver Lake location ranks 33 out of 47 locations in terms of necessity based on alternative service location availability.

As for the lack of a rest area on southbound I-5 south of Federal Way, WSDOT said it’s not necessary. The reason: Southbound travelers have multiple other stopping opportunities through Seattle and Tacoma.

And don’t expect the state to build one there any time soon. WSDOT doesn’t have the money to build any more. It also doesn’t have the money to fix its existing ones.

According to last year’s review, 87% of the buildings at the state’s rest areas were rated in critical condition, and it’s expected to cost between $375-525 million over the next 15 years to upgrade or renovate them.

Thank you Darcia for the question. It looks like gas stations or fast food restaurants are your pit stop from Arlington to Belfair.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints here. You can also follow Chris on X, formerly known as TwitterHead here to follow KIRO Newsradio Traffic’s profile on X.

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