If you plan to use Interstate-5 (I-5) north to Bellingham or the Canadian border the rest of this year and into early next year, plan ahead to use the facilities at a location other than a rest area. The Washington Dept of Transportation (WSDOT) closed the Smokey Point and Custer (north of Bellingham) Rest Areas last week. The southbound I-5 Silver Lake Rest Area that has been closed for maintenance and cleaning since September 24th will also remain closed.

There are a number of reasons that are driving these rest area closures. Many of the rest area facilities have been vandalized including knocking toilets and sinks off walls, along with illegal dumping of trash and waste. Some motorists have stayed within these rest areas well beyond posted time limits as well. In addition, WSDOT maintenance staff have been verbally abused and even threatened.

Like many other organizations, WSDOT also has personnel shortages. Given the threats to WSDOT maintenance staff, it was necessary to have two staff on hand for safety while conducting their maintenance, and the staffing shortage makes that effort much more challenging.

Morgan Balogh, WSDOT assistant regional administrator for Maintenance said, “The decision is close these rest areas is not taken lightly. Our priority is keeping the roadway safe for all users and we need to shift our resources moving into the winter months.”

WSDOT is working to open access for the RV dump stations at the northbound I-5 Smokey Point Rest Area by the first half of November. The RV dump stations at Silver Lake will remain closed. Neither Custer Rest Areas have dump stations.

WSDOT will reassess reopening all these rest areas early next year, based upon crew and resource availability. Until at least early next, plan ahead on where you may need to use the facilities if you are driving on I-5 from Snohomish County to the Canadian border.