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Thieves are stealing copper wire along Washington's highways

The entrance/exit ramp at 9th Avenue and Pike Street is closed until further notice.

SEATTLE — A ramp connected to the Interstate 5 express lanes in Seattle closed Tuesday following a "significant amount of wire theft."

The entrance/exit ramp at 9th Avenue and Pike Street is closed until further notice, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

"We cannot operate the gates or signage for that ramp without power," the WSDOT tweeted. "The express lanes will operate as normal with this exception."

The incident is just one of dozens in the past year.

Washington State Patrol (WSP) Trooper Joseph Armstrong said thieves have been targeting copper wire on the highways. In the past 13 months, Armstrong said the WSP has received 30 calls from the WSDOT about copper wire theft on highways in King County alone.

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Armstrong said thieves are looking for opportunities to steal copper wire. The metal's price at scrap yards has increased by more than 20% in the past year.

According to the WSDOT's website, thieves target street lights, signals, and storage yards. The thefts "jeopardize public safety by disabling traffic signals, highway lighting, information signs, and other transportation systems," the WSDOT noted.

In 2007, former Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill that increased the penalty against metal thieves.

For now, the ramp in downtown Seattle is closed indefinitely. The WSP has no leads of who stole the wire. Armstrong said the WSDOT is brain-storming how it can prevent another incident.

"They're trying to think of ways to hide it or put it through the system so when we do get everything up and running, it's not stolen again," said Armstrong.

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