Parking at interchanges prompts a question

The in basket: Debbie Corpolongo of Olalla is curious about what she thinks is an unusual number of cars stopped on Burley-Olalla Road under the overpass on which Highway 16 crosses it.

They are usually passenger vehicles, always have someone in them and are there all hours of the day and night, about every other time she passes that spot, she said.

The out basket: I can’t shed any light on this phenomenon. There were no cars parked there, with or without occupants, the seven times I pulled down the exit ramps to look for someone on my way to or from Tacoma .

Possibilities that occur to me are illicit romantic meetings, drug deals  and child custody visitation hand-offs. I’m not likely to find anyone admitting to two of those if I’m every able to find anyone stopped there to ask.

I did notice something interesting though. Should someone leave their car there unoccupied, they would be subject to having it impounded as soon as law enforcement sees it.

The ubiquitous “No Parking – Tow Away Zones” signs with which the state has lined Highway 16 this year are posted under the bridge too.

Out of curiosity, I checked the Mullenix Road and Tremont Street interchanges, the next two north of Burley Olalla. Mullenix had only Emergency Parking Only signs and there were no signs regarding parking at Tremont. I asked what guides the decision on what parking limitations to impose at the interchanges and whether it matters if someone is in the car.

The out basket: Claudia Bingham Baker of the Olympic Region of state highways replied, “The signs were installed at different times, and as a result their wording varies a little. They all mean the same thing, which is that parking is prohibited.

“Parking on highway or interchange shoulders in areas not signed is not illegal, but it’s also not a good idea. A car parked on a roadway shoulder becomes in essence a fixed object that can be hit by other vehicles. We hear of such collisions frequently.”

Washington State Patrol has a somewhat different attitude. Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for WSP here, says a car owner has longer to remove his car at Mullenix than at Burley-Olalla.

“If a motorist (at Burley-Olalla) leaves a disabled vehicle on the shoulder,  it is subject to impound,” he said. ” (Our communications) generally make an attempt to contact the registered owner via a phone listing prior to towing but this not usually effective due to reliance on cell phones these days.

“If possible, troopers will give the driver time to call in or return to the vehicle. An hour is normal but not required. We suggest a driver leave a note and phone number with the vehicle, if possible.

“Failing this, the vehicle is subject  to immediate impound. We try to use common sense and be reasonable with this. However, if a vehicle is abandoned in a unsafe location (in lane of travel, blind curve etc, the trooper can immediately remove the vehicle.

“If someone is present with the vehicle and just briefly stopped,  then common sense and reasonableness with the situation is expected.”

Where signs allow only emergency parking, such as at Mullenix Road, “That would be OK to leave a disabled vehicle safely off road, at least until tagged by county sheriff’s office,” Russ said. “(It’s) similar to the way SR16 used to be with our 24-hour rule. I’m not certain what time limit, if any, they use.”

One thought on “Parking at interchanges prompts a question

  1. I live in the area, and have stopped under the overpass on two occasions, both because of phone calls. The shoulder there is exceedingly wide, and sheltered from hot sun or rain.

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