WSDOT: Planning ahead is the ‘secret ingredient’ for stress-free holiday travel

Washington residents planning to travel to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday will want to plan now for winter weather and expect delays on most major routes.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to “know before you go” and consult the agency’s holiday travel charts to determine best times to travel, including times to avoid if possible. The Interstate 5 Canadian border forecast is not included due to unreliable pandemic travel data the last several years. Travel charts are based on 2019 pre-pandemic volumes.

The agency offers several tools to help plan holiday travels:

  • Look up real-time travel conditions for state highways or ferry routes online using the WSDOT website or track it on the WSDOT mobile app.
  • Follow WSDOT’s social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook for updates on potential crashes or road closures.
  • Pre-program 530 AM and 1610 AM to vehicle radios for highway advisory radio alerts.
  • Carry chains and other winter travel essentials.
  • Check the WSDOT mountain passes webpage for information on pass updates or the latest chain or traction tire requirements.
  • Leave extra time for holiday and winter travel, slow down and leave extra space between vehicles when driving on snow or ice.

WSDOT said the safety of the traveling public and the movement of goods across the state’s transportation system remain the agency’s top priority this winter. Crews are prepped for winter weather — including pre-treating and plowing. Travelers can help by being prepared for winter weather driving conditions. People can sign up for area-specific communication about road closures or scheduled maintenance activities including areas close to home or areas they’ll be traveling to for the holiday.

WSDOT encourages holiday travelers to work together to keep everyone safe, including those traveling by foot, bike, wheelchair or other modes.

“This time of year, many people are eager to see their loved ones and often make long trips, sometimes on roads they aren’t familiar with,” said WSDOT Active Transportation Director Barb Chamberlain. “When you increase your following distance and stop proactively for someone using a crosswalk or bike lane, you’re helping someone else make it home to their loved ones. Over 25% of the people who live in Washington aren’t drivers and they’re trying to get somewhere too.”

Weather conditions over mountain passes can change rapidly, so it’s important for travelers to plan ahead and follow posted chain requirements. It’s often drivers who travel too fast, without traction tires or chains or under the influence that close a pass for everyone. No construction is planned on I-90 from Thursday and Friday, Nov. 24-25. However, the usual holiday increase in traffic volumes means travelers should expect delays, especially eastbound on Wednesday and Thursday and westbound on Friday and Saturday (see charts for more detail). Text message alerts about significant delays are available by texting the words “WSDOT Snoqualmie” to 468311.

In the Puget Sound area, weekend toll rates will be in effect on Thursday, Nov. 24, on the State Route 520 bridge and SR 99 tunnel. The I-405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers on the Thursday holiday. Out-of-town travelers, including those using rental cars, can learn about toll roads and temporary account payment options on the Good To Go! visitors page.

People boarding a state ferry by vehicle should prepare for long waits. Peak travel times on most routes are expected to be westbound (or onto an island) Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 23-24, then eastbound (or off an island), Friday and Saturday, Nov. 25-26. Customers also can bypass vehicle lines by traveling as a walk-on passenger.

  • All riders should double check the sailing schedules as some routes are operating on timetables that are different than prior to the pandemic.
  • Visit the Washington State Ferries website for more details on vehicle reservations, ferry email alerts, checking terminal conditions and COVID-19 travel updates.
  • Check with local public transit agencies for any holiday schedule or service changes, including some Dial-A-Ride and fixed-route service that may not operate over holidays.

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