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WSDOT apologizes for ‘U SUCK,’ but not for illegal, expanding toll lanes

(File, WSDOT)

Southbound I-5 commuters received a surprise from WSDOT on Wednesday morning.

RELATED: They plan to toll every road

The digital WSDOT sign just before exit 154B read, “U SUCK.”

WSDOT issued an official apology the same day, calling the words an “inappropriate message” and “a mistake” that was “due to a training error.”

However, many Washington residents – such as 44th Legislative Dist. Rep. Mark Harmsworth (R-Mill Creek) – are wondering when drivers will receive an apology for the I-405 toll lanes.

Harmsworth told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show that he agrees with Dori that the 405 toll lanes are illegal. He said that WSDOT isn’t interested in soliciting opinions from any of the people who are stuck in the regular congested lanes of the freeway.

“For the rest of us — the majority of us — who can’t afford to do that every day … [WSDOT] not asking those drivers if they’re enjoying the experience because they know … the experience is really bad for them,” Harmsworth said.

The state announced earlier this month that it plans to expand the 405 toll lanes from Bellevue to Renton, adding an extra lane in each direction that is purely for tolling. The tolled portion of 405 currently runs between Lynnwood and Bellevue.

“My question for them would be, ‘Why not just add the capacity?'” Harmsworth said. “That would actually work if it was a general purpose lane.”

“They’re definitely trying to do this under the radar,” he added.

Like Dori, Harmsworth sees the 405 tolling as just the beginning; he believes the future of roads in Washington will see tolls all over the state’s freeways.

“I’ve seen the studies they’ve done for the full I-5 corridor – mark my words, they’ll be talking about tolling the express lanes on I-5 next,” he said.

WSDOT also plans to get rid of the $10 limit for toll lane use, according to Harmsworth.

“You could see some pretty expensive tolls, even higher than D.C., which basically makes the road unusable for just about everybody unless you’re Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos,” Harmsworth said.

Harmsworth is currently participating in WSDOT’s voluntary road usage pilot program which collects information about how far drivers travel and, in some cases, how many traffic violations they make in a given journey.

“They’re collecting so much data, and we know how secure the government systems are,” Harmsworth laughed.

More seriously, he continued, “This is such a huge privacy issue with what they’re collecting, and they have absolutely no right, but they’re collecting it anyway.”

In this past legislative session, Harmsworth attempted to pass legislation to shut down the toll lanes, but said he was blocked. Harmsworth is adamant that the lanes “are absolutely illegal.”

“We’ve got to keep the pressure on [WSDOT] –  they are operating [the lanes] illegally, they don’t have the authority to do that now,” Harmsworth said.  “And despite what they claim, the pilot should have been over by now and they should be dismantling these lanes, but they’re just carrying on. It’s the government not being accountable to us.”

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