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Attempted metal theft shuts down electronic highway signs and cameras on I-5

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Date:  Friday, June 29, 2012

Contact: Abbi Russell, WSDOT communications, 360-905-2058 (Vancouver)

VANCOUVER – Would-be metal thieves cut a fiber optic line on State Route 500 in Vancouver this morning, causing a major network outage that is affecting the Washington State Department of Transportation’s ability to provide traveler information on the Interstate 5 corridor.

Electronic message boards and traffic cameras are down along I-5 from Vancouver to Kelso. Some of the internal systems WSDOT uses to keep track of road crews are down, as well.

“We’re very concerned,” said WSDOT Southwest Region Administrator Don Wagner. “We can’t track our crews for safety purposes, and we can’t warn drivers about issues on the interstate right now. If there was ever a time for drivers to avoid distractions and stay vigilant, this is it.”

The fiber optic line was exposed during utility relocation for WSDOT’s SR 500, St. Johns Boulevard Interchange project. A utility contractor is attempting to repair the line and expects to have the network functioning again today.

Until then, drivers should be extra attentive, especially in the I-5 work zones near Woodland and Salmon Creek.

Also, drivers should watch for delays on I-5 at the Washington-Oregon border. There have been multiple unscheduled lifts of the I-5 Interstate Bridge for river traffic today.

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