WSDOT staffing shortages to cause longer road closures, minimal plowing on Passes this winter

 With snow predicted for the mountain passes over the weekend, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is warning drivers that commutes over the passes will be different this year. 

Citing staff shortages due to retirement, the pandemic and other factors, crews will be shifting priorities for plowing and road closures. 

In October, 5.9% of WSDOT staff left the agency due to the state vaccine mandate, which impacted already-low winter operations numbers, WSDOT reported. 

"Safety is always our top priority – for those of you traveling and our employees. Our dedicated crews will absolutely still be out on the roadways, plowing during and after storms as well as preparing and, in some cases, pre-treating roadways before storms," WSDOT said. 

WSDOT said it will prioritize work based on safety, resources and pre-existing plowing priority maps based on volume and/or critical roads.

WSDOT says this what drivers can expect: 

  • 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.

Make sure you give yourself extra time while driving across the passes, and make sure you're driving slower if there's snow or ice on the roads and give extra space between you and the car in front of you. 

You can find winter driving tips from WSDOT here. 

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