Homeless people uproot brick, dig tunnels beneath highway overpass

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Giant chunks of uprooted brick and channels of dug-out dirt sit under the state's busiest roadway.

Thousands of cars drive over the I-5 Pacific Avenue overpass daily. Many might not realize people are living underneath.

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"You're really at a loss of words when you look at it,” said Jesse Schlottman.

Schlottman works down the road and drives under the bridge all the time.

"I do probably drive by there once a day on average, just going out and about. I stare at it every time I drive by and it seems every time you drive by it gets worse,” he said.

No one was there when KIRO 7 stopped by Friday, but Schlottman said people have lived under the bridge for years.

"If they're homeless people, they're probably trying to stay dry,” said Lester Love.

Many people said they’re concerned about brick and dirt being removed from underneath the overpass.

"For all us average people know, they could be causing structural harm to that overpass or the freeway itself,” said Schlottman.

Washington State Department of Transportation spokesman Doug Adamson said officials are aware it’s happening. He said the bricks are there for erosion control and removing them doesn't impact the structural integrity of the bridge. Adamson said the department needs help from law enforcement to keep people from camping under the bridge.

KIRO 7 called the Olympia Police Department and was directed to the Washington State Patrol.

Troopers weren’t aware of the problem but said WSDOT owns the property. They said WSDOT needs to add signage banning people from the area before troopers can force people out.

"It's going to be our taxpaying dollars fixing it, so it's just kind of a waste of money,” said Schlottman.

WSDOT said workers have tried adding fencing and other barriers in the past but haven't had luck keeping people out.