Is it okay to drive on the shoulder of the I-5 Exit 262 northbound off-ramp?

The hatch markings on the right shoulder of the I-5 northbound Main Street exit off-ramp apparently perplex many Ferndale area neighbors if a recent conversation on social media is any example.

The conversation occurred in a closed (not public-facing) Facebook group and there were a wide array of opinions over whether using the shoulder to bypass backed up traffic not turning right was legal or even safe.

Backups occur frequently at that off-ramp since the rightmost lane is not a right turn only lane. If the lead vehicle is going straight, all vehicles behind that vehicle are required to wait until the traffic signal cycles to green, allowing the lead vehicle to proceed through the intersection. It is not unusual to see a vehicle in the shoulder bypassing the line to make a  right turn onto westbound Main Street.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman responded when Discover Ferndale asked via email whether such a maneuver would be a ticketable offense. “Yes, a ticket can be given since it’s considered the shoulder of the roadway,” said Axtman. “The ticket would be for wheels off roadway or illegally passing on right.” In addition, Axtman pointed out, “If there’s a sign restricting such movements, the driver could also receive a fail to obey restrictive sign ticket.”

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Currently there is no sign in place that addresses driving on the shoulder.



  1. The horizontal lines on the right indicate to me that there should be no free right turns. People behind me will just have to wait because I will not drive on those lines to make a turn onto Main.

    Another situation exists at exit 263 . Traffic backs up with people turning left onto Portal Way. Most of us turn on our right turn signal and slowly creep up to the stop sign to make a right turn onto Portal Way going north. Doubt that’s legal either but ” we all do it”.

    • While not touched on in the story, WSDOT had explained in other forums over past years how the current design enables commercial vehicles with trailers (read semi trucks with trailers) to accomplish a right turn from the off-ramp. The challenge is accomplishing the right turn onto a single lane. They do not have the option of swinging wide into a second lane (that is currently a left turn lane for eastbound Main Street traffic to get to the northbound I-5 on-ramp). So the right turn from the off-ramp is set further east to allow trucks to safely negotiate the turn. This ‘extra’ space is tempting to other drivers who, from their limited perspective, see no one turning right so it appears safe to drive on the shoulder.

      I speak from personal experience that this limited perspective is the failing the law is designed to keep people safe from. I watched a van with a mother and children pull up in the shoulder, not realizing the truck at the stop signal was turning right (yes, signals were on). The end result was the van being pinched between the semi’s trailer and the guardrail and drug several feet.

      But to better answer your question, who to contact for some form of improvement, that would be Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).