WSDOT Firings Over Vaccine Mandate to Cause Longer Winter Road Closures

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) may be short-staffed because of COVID-19 vaccine regulations. This may cause a winter that is harsher and damper than usual.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s immunization regulations for government workers cost WSDOT over 400 employees in October. According to a recent WSDOT briefing to legislative staff, motorists should anticipate extended road restrictions, due to thunderstorms and avalanches this winter. 

Understaffed and Overworked: Vaccine Mandate is to Blame

The vaccine mandate is the root of all these problems. Some of the expected problems are interstate sections being covered in snow and ice, while crews work to keep one or two lanes open.

There will be increased speed limitations in zones with changeable limits. Less attention is paid to secondary highways and outdoor spaces, as personnel work on higher priority routes. 

According to WSDOT’s presentation, restrictions occur every year for several reasons, such as spin-outs, accidents, drivers unsuitable for circumstances, avalanche management, or hazardous weather conditions.

According to WSDOT director of communications Kris Rietmann Abrudan, a labor deficit already existed. She noted the staffing issues are complicated. WSDOT had them preceding the vaccine mandate; so although the vaccine requirement contributed, it was not the sole factor.

This is a real problem. Instead of closing the entire street to plow all lanes, the agency and others have long practiced leaving a few lanes open during intense storms.

She said because plows can’t be everywhere at once, this happens when snow falls during plow trips on the road. Also, if personnel catch up, due to weather and staffing, all roads will be plowed.

Citizens Shouldn’t Think They are Incompetent

Kris Rietmann Abrudan remarked that weather-related closures are rare and unprepared drivers cause most. She goes on to say context is vital and is shared.

The idea is to be clear about what people might anticipate and whatever they could do to help. The Washington State Patrol lost 127 people due to the vaccination obligation and while responding to collisions and clearing snow passes.

WSP Director of Communications Chris Loftis said the openings are scattered all over the state, affecting different patrol areas. As a result of their century of expertise on their state’s highways, they are organizing available resources.

Other than the occasional cyclical impact, citizens should not see a decline in service, he noted. Besides, Governor Inslee repeatedly downplays worries of severe state service interruptions owing to the vaccination mandate.

In a formal report on October 18, Inslee expressed confidence that social programs, health care, and education would be barely affected. A week before, Inslee predicted the same.

The government has been meticulous in planning for scenarios, following the October 18 immunization deadline. The high immunization rates should allay any fears. State services will not be severely disrupted because the state has 15 mountain passes.