OLYMPIA, Wash. — The state of Washington has ordered that the state-run rest area closed last fall be reopened.
House Bill 1655 reverses the decision to close several state-run areas in October 2021.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) chose to close the rest areas then due to safety concerns.
“The rest areas are useful for people who need to take a break from the highway,” WSDOT said in a press release on Oct. 13, 2021. “However, in recent months, there have been numerous issues with some visitors who are not using the facilities for their intended purpose. This includes those who extend their stay beyond the posted limits, illegal disposal of trash and waste, vandalizing the buildings, verbally abusing and even threatening WSDOT employees.”
On Wednesday, the state legislature approved HB1655 that requires WSDOT to reopen the rest areas immediately.
“The department is directed to reconfigure its maintenance operations to assure that its owned and operated safety rest areas are open for use except for seasonal closures or cleaning, maintenance, and repairs,” the bill states.
The bill says that WSDOT may issue short-term contracts to provide cleaning, security or repairs to the safety rest areas when they are unable to provide the services with existing employees.
“Commercial motor vehicle parking shortages are a national safety concern,” the bill states. “Washington state has exacerbated the problem in the fall of 2021 by the closure of many state-owned and operated safety rest areas.”
Drowsy driving was a factor in 44 deaths and 236 serious injuries from 2015-2017.
“One of the ways Washington’s target zero plan addresses this issue is having available rest areas,” the act states. “The closure of state-owned safety rest areas is contrary to state policy to have zero deaths on the roadways.”
The bill also acknowledges that commercial truck drivers are required to take federally mandated rest breaks which is hampered by the lack of rest areas.
Joseph Price has been a journalist for almost two decades. He began in community media in 2005 and has since worked at media outlets in Virginia and Arkansas. He is also a commercial drone pilot and video editor. He hosts a weekly community radio show focused on goth, metal and industrial music that airs Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. at www.kuhsradio.org.