Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road: Is Meridian’s exit lane a protected lane?

Cars wait in a line of traffic to turn onto Meridian Street from the Interstate 5 northbound exit ramp in Bellingham in December 2007. Cars turning right onto northbound Meridian Street have a protected lane marked by a solid white line. Cars already on Meridian can’t merge into the right lane until the dashed line, though they often do so illegally.
Cars wait in a line of traffic to turn onto Meridian Street from the Interstate 5 northbound exit ramp in Bellingham in December 2007. Cars turning right onto northbound Meridian Street have a protected lane marked by a solid white line. Cars already on Meridian can’t merge into the right lane until the dashed line, though they often do so illegally. The Bellingham Herald

Question: Is the off-ramp lane of northbound Interstate 5 at Meridian Street a protected lane when heading north on Meridian? I always see drivers stop when the lane is clear and the light is green, waiting to merge, but there is a solid white line allowing, I thought, for the off-ramp traffic to enter Meridian without stopping unless the light is red at Telegraph Road. The northbound drivers on Meridian do sometimes cross the solid white line to merge into the far right lane that just starts at the off-ramp to make a right turn on Telegraph. Is that not illegal? I believe there needs to be more instruction at that intersection.

Answer: Yes, the I-5 northbound off-ramp onto Meridian Street to go northbound is a “protected lane.” The drivers that are exiting the freeway have the right of way in the curb lane as far as the end of the wide solid-white line. At that point, the center lane is allowed to move right when it is safe to do so. The curb lane was extended as far north as Bakerview Road to allow drivers much more space to safely merge left.

From the Washington State Drivers Guide, this is its explanation:

“A dashed white line between lanes of traffic means that you may cross it to change lanes if it is safe. A solid white line between lanes of traffic means that you should stay in your lane unless a special situation requires you to change lanes.”

Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices. Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department . For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to bellinghamherald.com/news/traffic/rules-of-the-road/.

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