Stronger Families. Stronger Communities. Stronger Washington

Homelessness at Park and Rides! What is the State doing?
Author: peterabbarno
April 20, 2020

Homelessness on State “right of way” property has been a controversial issue that hasn’t reached the pinnacle. County and City governments face stiff criticism for ‘not doing enough’ about RVs and homelessness at State owned local Park and Ride locations. Who is really responsible?

Many Washington State Department of Transportation Park and Ride locations up and down the I-5 corridor. This property is owned, operated, and enforced by the State. The Governor should take action immediately and return Park and Rides back to their true purpose. Mellen Street has become a health, safety, and environmental disaster.

Peter Abbarno, Candidate for State Representative in the 20th Legislative District.

In 2018, a large fire started at encampment along the embankment on southbound I-5 near Northgate (north of Seattle). The fire jumped 10 lanes of traffic during the afternoon rush hour and was burning on both sides of the highway before firefighters arrived.

In Lewis County, several fires were reported over the past year, human waste is polluting our aquifer, and the Mellen Street Park and Ride is home to more than a dozen RVs and homeless campers.

Who is responsible for enforcing rules at WSDOT Park and Ride lots?

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Washington State Patrol enforces laws at lots operated by WSDOT. The Mellen Street Park and Ride is operated by WSDOT.

The WSDOT Right of Way Manual States that all real property, including airspace (e.g., operating highways, pit sites, mitigation sites, park and ride lots) owned by WSDOT acquired for highway purposes is devoted to public highway purposes. WSDOT is responsible for preserving the right of way free of public and private installations or facilities that are not a part of the highway facility and are not consistent with its safe operation, maintenance, and use. This would include abandoned vehicles or items like camping equipment that block the proper use of the Park and Ride.

Can you leave your car at the Park and Ride for as long as you want and for any purpose?

The WSDOT Q & A says, at most lots signs indicate the maximum allowable parking time, usually 48 hours. Maximum parking periods are enforced by law, and violators may be towed. Park and ride lots are intended to serve the community by providing a convenient, safe transfer area for transit, carpool and vanpool passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.

The Washington State Patrol enforces laws at lots operated by WSDOT. At this point, and until it is leased to an entity like Twin Transit, the Mellen Street Park and Ride is operated by WSDOT. If leased to another entity, the lessee can request that Centralia begin enforcing nuisance codes.

Other law enforcement agencies may respond to criminal violations and emergency situations; however, civil action and State regulations enforcement against the WSDOT ‘tenants/campers’ is the jurisdiction of the State- and that has been made clear by the State.

The Governor must support WDOT employees and the Washington State Patrol in their efforts to keep State property in our communities safe, clean, and healthy. The State needs to follow through and enforce their own regulations.

There needs to be a change in the law to address the concerns of local governments and local residents when the State owns property and fails to maintain the property and it becomes a health and safety hazard. I will certainly be addressing this issue when I am elected to the State Legislature.

Peter Abbarno, Candidate for State Representative in the 20th Legislative District.

Contact Governor Inslee and tell him to clean up our Park and Rides: (360) 902-4111 or Send Message