Dori: WSDOT’s snowplow service refusal over vaccine mandates ‘unbelievable,’ lawmaker says

Jan 13, 2022, 3:52 PM | Updated: Jan 14, 2022, 7:28 am
plows, vaccine mandates...
Crews from Spokane and Davenport on I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass helping in the effort to reopen the pass. (WSDOT)

When heavy snowfall led the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to close four east-west mountain passes earlier this month, the effect was crippling.

Now, some lawmakers are saying the road closures were made worse by WSDOT’s refusal to accept an offer from the Kittitas County Department of Public Works to help clear roadways.

Why? Because Kittitas County doesn’t require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, like state agencies must.

Kittitas County says WSDOT refused help for clearing snow over lack of vaccine mandate

At a time when WSDOT is understaffed due to COVID requirements, countless citizens were stuck on either side of the passes for days. Commercial trucks were unable to deliver much-needed food, supplies, and products. And that doesn’t even count the number of people who were stranded in their homes along the miles of closed roadways.

This has some lawmakers, including state Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima), angry with Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar.

“It’s unbelievable, but the state agencies [favor] the governor’s ideology over the safety and concerns of our commerce, our citizens,” Sen. King told Dori Monson Show listeners. “There are thousands of trucks sitting alongside the road, waiting for these passes to open.”

“[What] we ought to be concerned about is [the number] of those people [who] were trying to get across the pass to get critical medical care,” Sen. King continued.

As the state’s Senate Transportation Committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. King was further riled up by WSDOT’s move after rejecting the Kittitas County offer.

“Then what do they (WSDOT) do? They go out and hire private contractors. Why hire private contractors? Because they don’t have to meet the vaccine mandate,” King said. “And then, to have the gall to say this (closure) didn’t last any longer than it normally would have in previous years, because we (WSDOT) didn’t fire anybody? Yeah, they did fire them. That’s the other part that just drives me crazy.”

Sen. King had nothing but praise for the remaining state employees “who are doing their level best to get these passes open, working overtime, and overtime, and overtime.”

“We’re putting their lives in danger because of exhaustion and the critical nature of the work,” he said.

Dori pointed out that COVID-related WSDOT terminations have forced many remaining employees to work seven-day shifts instead of four-day shifts. Crews that used to work on six-person teams are now down to three-person teams, Dori says.

“The government doesn’t seem to be caring about them,” King continued. “[These workers] do care about the job they do, taking care of our passes and thus taking care of our citizens. … They got short-changed by the governor and secretary Millar.”

“It is truly unbelievable that we would go this far, but that seems to be where we are these days,” he said.

Kittitas County Commissioner Laura Osiadacz also joined the Dori Monson Show on Thursday, sharing that she believes the state is putting politics over people by refusing help. Listen to the interview below:

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Dori: WSDOT’s snowplow service refusal over vaccine mandates ‘unbelievable,’ lawmaker says