With the holiday season quickly approaching, longer than usual delays are expected at Washington’s traffic hotspots as millions of people take to the roads.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) urges all travelers to “know before you go”, in order to make it to the feast on time and be prepared. To help you plan, WSDOT has released holiday travel information, so you know when the roads will be particularly stuffed, however, you choose to move.
WSDOT’s recommended travel times:
Wednesday is expected to be the worst for travel, with routes I-90 North Bend to Cle Elum, US 2 between Stevens Pass and Skykomish, I-5 Lacey to Tacoma, and I-5 near the U.S./Canada border being highway traffic hot spots. Early afternoons are usually the busiest times, between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. depending on the route.
Be aware of tolling, the SR 520 bridge and SR 99 tunnel will have weekend toll rates on Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, returning to weekday rates on Friday, Nov. 29. On the I-405 express toll lanes, travel is free for everyone on the Thanksgiving holiday, returning to normal toll and HOV requirements from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 29.
WSDOT has travel time charts, which use historical data to help drivers estimate their commute time. Tuning your radio to 530 AM and 1610 AM will also give you real time traffic alerts as they happen. For those in the passenger seat, help out your driver by downloading a mobile app or checking traffic cameras.
Through the Mountain Passes:
Check current chain and traction requirements on the WSDOT mountain passes website or by calling 5-1-1, and watch for highway advisory signs. Remember to always carry chains and other winter driving essentials if you’re planning on making the trek. Weather can change in an instant, so it’s important to stay informed and prepare for snow and ice.
State Route 123 Cayuse Pass and SR 410 Chinook Pass officially closed for the season at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, and will not be available for holiday travel. These passes close every winter due to avalanche danger, poor road conditions, lack of snow storage and no emergency response services within proximity.
Users should always check the status of mountain passes before hitting the road.
Snoqualmie, one of the most heavily trafficked passes in the region, offers text alerts that sends users a notification when delays reach 30 minutes or more. Text “wsdot snoqualmie” to 468311 to subscribe, and “wsdot stop” to unsubscribe.
The Apple Cup comes home:
In Seattle, expect high traffic on the Link Light Rail and increased metro bus service to Husky Stadium on Friday, Nov. 29 for the annual University of Washington (UW) and Washington State University (WSU) Thanksgiving football face-off. Information and maps can be found on UW’s website, King County Metro, and Sound Transit.
For those coming from Eastern Washington, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) will have an increased presence starting Nov. 21 and running through Dec. 1 as WSU students travel across the state for the holidays. WSP encourages travelers to be prepared for winter conditions and will be watching to ensure drivers are being safe.
Across the Sound:
Heavier than normal ferry traffic is expected, with the longest wait times being westbound the afternoon/evening of Wednesday, Nov. 27 and on Thanksgiving morning. Eastbound, the longest lines are expected Thanksgiving afternoon and Friday morning, Nov. 29. Consider reserving your spot by booking tickets online or walking on.
Space is limited on the Port Townsend/Coupeville ferry route on Wednesday, Nov. 27, and Thursday, Nov. 28, due to tidal current cancellations of several evening sailings.
Canadian service is suspended through Sunday, Dec. 8, due to required maintenance on the vessels certified to run international service.
Always check ferry schedules, terminal conditions, and wait time alerts before you go, as some ferries will run their Saturday schedules on the holiday. Washington State Ferries (WSF) even has color coded sailing schedules so you can see the least congested times of the day.