WSDOT braces for another understaffed pandemic winter
OLYMPIA, Wash. — As we approach the second winter of the pandemic, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is preparing to have slower responses to crashes and traffic incidents due to staffing issues.
A blog post from the WSDOT detailed part of the organization’s struggles imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The events of the last year and a half have eliminated a portion of WSDOT’s workforce. In fact, KXLY reported in October that the organization lost 402 employees to COVID-19 vaccine mandates alone.
As a ripple effect, there will be fewer staff members ready and available to respond during winter storms. While the WSDOT still has dedicated crews ready to help plow roads and take preventative measures to keep highways safe, it’s down roughly 300 employees from where it usually stands this time of year.
The Department of Transportation listed the following expectations for reduced service in lieu of the pandemic:
- Some roads and passes will be closed longer than normal during and after significant storms.
- Some roads will not get the same level or service, may be only plowed minimally or will have snow and ice on the roadway for longer periods of time. Some areas may not be staffed 24/7.
- Especially during large storms or long-lasting ones, we won’t have a deep enough “bench” of staff to respond 24/7 for several days throughout the storm.
- Some lanes of the freeway system may have snow and ice while crews focus on keeping just one or two lanes open.
- Lower speed limits in areas with variable speed limits.
- There may be slower responses to crashes and other emergencies, and it may take longer to clear major crashes or slide-offs.
- Less attention to secondary routes and recreation areas as crews focus on higher priority roadways.
Commercial drivers are in high demand, and DOT organizations across the United States are experiencing a shortage of workers. Plus, the organization is missing mechanics who would help keep their trucks up and running for plow operations.
The Department’s No. 1 priority remains the safety of Washington drivers. They suggest that everyone is prepared in case of emergencies and express serious caution while driving in winter conditions. In fact, most of the closures on Snoqualmie Pass are because someone drove too fast and spun out or crashed.
If you are interested in filling a vacant position with the Washington State Department of Traffic, click here for more information.
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