SEATTLE – The Washington State Department of Transportation has closed five rest stops north of Seattle along Interstate 5 due to excessive litter, vandalism and staff shortages.
Rest areas closed on Friday in both directions at Smokey Point between Marysville and Arlington and in both directions in Custer, north of Bellingham, the Seattle Times reported.
“We saw broken toilets, broken sinks and stands,” said agency spokesman Bart Treece, who noted that the maintenance staff are now working in pairs for safety reasons. “Some people extend their stay and leave rubbish behind.”
The already closed rest area Silver Lake in South Everett will remain closed.
The closings will last at least three months and will be reassessed in 2022, the agency said.
Typically four full-time employees run the Smokey Point and South Everett rest stops, but only one works there, Treece said. This is part of a 32-person shortage of maintenance workers in northwest Washington, in part caused when fears of recession led to a hiring freeze at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So far there are no plans to block the other 43 of the 48 WSDOT rest stops for the winter.
Treece described the closings on Friday as intermediate steps until the workforce improves. Any permanent closure would require federal approval, as interstate standards typically mandate a rest area every 60 miles, according to a state planning manual.