SMOKEY POINT — Weary travelers soon can pep up once again and stretch their legs at rest areas in Snohomish County.
The Washington State Department of Transportation’s free coffee program resumed statewide Friday after being on hiatus during the pandemic. Not all rest areas were set to have free coffee as volunteer groups signed up once again.
Snohomish County’s only rest areas in Everett and Smokey Point were closed in mid-October. Staffing shortages exacerbated maintenance backlogs and vandalism, according to WSDOT.
The northbound and southbound Interstate 5 rest areas in Smokey Point reopened Jan. 13. The northbound RV dump station opened late last year “with no significant problems,” a WSDOT spokesperson said.
“We expect rest areas to see volunteers back as early as the Memorial Day weekend, but not all rest areas will have the free coffee program at the same time,” a WSDOT spokesperson wrote in an email.
Smokey Point’s free coffee program could be back by early summer, the spokesperson wrote.
But the Silver Lake rest area accessible for southbound drivers just south of Highway 526 is still closed and will be “until further notice.” Projects such as roof repairs are still needed before the facility reopens. Semi-truck drivers have access to parking and a bathroom there, but other travelers will have to visit nearby businesses.
WSDOT is reintroducing the free coffee program in phases so groups learn the new reservation system and updated guidelines for serving drinks.
Now only coffee and non-carbonated drinks can be offered, and food is not allowed. Groups can’t solicit donations, and volunteers must be vaccinated against COVID-19.