Unconscionable: WSDOT refuses help to clear snow from roads in Kittitas County

Central Washington Sens. Judy Warnick and Curtis King issued this statement regarding the state Department of Transportation’s refusal to let Kittitas County road crews help clear snow on state highways in the county after a major snowstorm last week:

“We are shocked and very disappointed that the state Department of Transportation refused Kittitas County’s offer to help clear snow off key highways because county employees are not required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The state, especially the governor, is putting political ideology and an inflexible desire to enforce vaccine mandates above public safety. This is wrong and foolish.

“A snowplow has just one person in the vehicle, so it shouldn’t matter whether the snowplow driver is vaccinated. Most people rightly are more concerned that our highways and roads are kept clear of snow this winter than the vaccination status of snowplow drivers and other winter road crew employees, who typically work in isolation.

“After the snowstorm hit last week, Interstate 90 and U.S. Highway 97 through Kittitas County were closed for three days, making travel nearly impossible for county residents and others relying on these highways, keeping people from attending medical appointments or other important meetings on the west side of the Cascades, and delaying freight deliveries. WSDOT’s winter road crews have been working around the clock to try to keep our highways clear, but they are very understaffed – and exhausted – due to job losses caused by Governor Inslee’s COVID vaccine mandates. Kittitas County generously offered to have its road crews help clear the snow, but WSDOT leaders refused. And then WSDOT hired a private contractor to help clear highways in the county. Is WSDOT requiring that contractor to be vaccinated?

“We feared the vaccine mandate would hurt drivers and truckers this winter. Sadly, our fears have been realized. This is on the governor, not those WSDOT workers who lost their jobs.”

Warnick, R-Moses Lake, serves the 13th Legislative District, which includes Kittitas County. King, R-Yakima, serves the 14th Legislative District and is ranking Republican on the Senate Transportation Committee.

King was interviewed about this issue today on KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show.

The Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold a work session today at 4 p.m. on the state of transportation in Washington. WSDOT officials, including state Transportation Secretary Roger Millar, are expected to attend. King says he will ask WSDOT pointed questions about its refusal to accept Kittitas County’s offer to help plow highways in that county. The committee meeting can be viewed here.