Washington Policy Center wants to know how many snow plow drivers are available

Dec 13, 2021, 1:56 PM
snow plow...
Snow plows on the roads in Washington. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT/Flickr)
(Photo courtesy of WSDOT/Flickr)

Ahead of a snowy weekend in the mountain passes, there was some concern that the passes would have to close at times, a problem that could exacerbated by a lack of slow plow drivers.

WSDOT workforce shortage could mean more closed roads this winter

Normally, the state is pretty good about sanding, says KIRO Radio host John Curley, but he says it was not well-sanded last Thursday. He stayed in Cle Elum on Friday rather than battle the passes.

There has been concern that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate has impacted, or will impact, the number of snow plow drivers on the road this winter.

The Washington State Department of Transportation let 402 employees go after the vaccine mandate, said Mariya Frost with the Washington Policy Center.

“I’ve been pushing for, well, for two things,” Frost told the John Curley & Shari Show. “First, for the department of transportation to give us some real answers. It’s not that we haven’t had snowfall before in the fall. We have had similar levels of snowfall in October and November in previous years, like we had in November this year.”

“What I want to know is the type of incidents that they’re dealing with, the number of slow plows that are available for them to use. And compare that to the previous year to really get an idea of how much the vaccine mandate is impacting their ability to deliver service, which they, themselves, say this winter they won’t be able to do at the kind of levels that we are used to,” she added. “So we know that there is an impact, but we need the department of transportation to quantify it for us, and I don’t expect that they will because leadership at the department of transportation supports the mandate and I don’t think they’re going to try to backtrack now.”

Frost says she has also been pushing WSDOT to remove the vaccine mandate.

“Not because we don’t support vaccines — we do. But this mandate is yielding negative returns and creating a real public safety problem for the traveling public,” she said.

If it becomes clear that the vaccine mandate has impacted service to the point where it’s detrimental and there are safety issues, as host Shari Elliker asked, what impact does Frost’s organization have on their decision making moving forward?

“My job is to research and provide transparency and some kind of connection between these public agencies and the public,” Frost explained. “A lot of these decisions that are being made by the department of transportation and other administrative agency heads — these are not accountable, elected people. The public needs to know the type of decision that they’re making.”

Listen to the full interview in the first hour of the John & Shari Show from Friday below:

Listen to the John Curley and Shari Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

John Curley and Shari Elliker on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to tom and curleyTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 3pm for John Curley and Shari Elliker.

John Curley and Shari Elliker

John Curley and Shari Elliker

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Washington Policy Center wants to know how many snow plow drivers are available