SEATTLE — The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) released its Christmas weekend travel forecast for this year ahead of what are expected to be very congested roads and highways across western Washington.
When the holiday falls on a weekend, like Christmas, the WSDOT said roads across the entire state see higher than usual traffic. One route that is especially impacted is Interstate 90, which runs across Snoqualmie Pass and stretches through almost the entire state from Seattle to Spokane.
This year, severe weather threatens to further complicate travel with Stevens and Snoqualmie passes having to close for hours one week before Christmas due to spinouts and heavy snow.
The WSDOT advises drivers planning to travel for Christmas to plan ahead using tools, including the WSDOT’s app and social media accounts, to track conditions.
As of Sunday, the WSDOT provided travel charts for the south Sound on Interstate 5 from Lacey to Tacoma, on U.S. Highway 2 between Stevens Pass and Skykomish and on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass from North Bend to Cle Elum.
Below are some highlights that drivers should look out for.
I-5 between Lacey and Tacoma
For northbound I-5 from Lacey to Tacoma, drivers Thursday and Friday should expect stop-and-go traffic from between 10-11 a.m. to 5-6 p.m.
Christmas day is also expected to be a busy travel day with moderate to heavy traffic expected from 10 a.m. to about 10 p.m. While I-5 will remain busy, traffic levels are expected to be lower than an average Saturday in December.
Southbound, drivers can expect mostly the same as northbound traffic prior to Saturday with a slightly busier Christmas day.
Following the holiday, traffic is expected to be above average through the middle of the day through at least Tuesday, Dec. 28.
I-5 Christmas weekend traffic forecast
US 2 between Stevens Pass and Skykomish
Those traveling eastbound over Stevens Pass on US 2 should plan to avoid traveling in the morning between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. leading up to Christmas. After the holiday, eastbound traffic will remain well above average in the mid to late morning hours through Tuesday.
US 2 traffic forecast for Christmas weekend
I-90 between North Bend and Cle Elum
Eastbound traffic on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass is expected to be above average but not reach stop-and-go status Thursday through Saturday.
On Dec. 26, eastbound drivers should avoid the stretch of road from 11 a.m. to about 1 p.m. to avoid the worst congestion.
Westbound traffic over Snoqualmie Pass looks about the same until Sunday, Dec. 26, when stop-and-go traffic is expected to choke I-90 from about noon to 5 p.m.
I-90 traffic forecast for Christmas weekend
While WSDOT typically provides a traffic forecast for I-5 from Bellingham to the Canadian border, the department said there are no charts available since the border only recently reopened and “COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements make it difficult to forecast travel patterns.”