OLYMPIA — Hordes of vacationers will hit the road Friday for the long Labor Day weekend.
That means you should expect greater congestion on highways and longer lines for state ferries in the course of the next three days.
“Be aware there is going to be more traffic so give yourself a little extra time,” said Barbara LaBoe, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
If your plans involve traveling on an interstate highway, the slow going traditionally starts Friday afternoon as everyone looks to get out of town. And then it’s bad Monday as everyone returns.
But historically there are periods of time when traffic is less congested on I-5 and U.S. 2. They are plotted in charts posted on the state transportation department’s website.
For example, travel on U.S. 2 across the Cascade Range between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth starts getting bad on Friday around noon and doesn’t ease up until after 8 p.m., according to the charts.
Coming back, it’s pretty smooth sailing on that stretch throughout Sunday. On Monday, traffic volumes begin to build around 10 a.m. and stay heavy through the early evening.
The charts don’t cover the portion of highway from Everett to Stevens Pass. Travelers using that stretch are reminded to expect slowdowns in Monroe in both directions all weekend because of the Evergreen State Fair.
One piece of good news: Drivers shouldn’t be slowed down by construction because the state will suspend most work on state highways for the weekend.
And, a reminder, the I-405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers all weekend and Monday as well.
A similar situation looms for ferry travelers as ridership during the holiday weekend has risen the last couple years.
In 2014, the number of riders on state ferries in the holiday weekend was 316,357. Last year, the total hit 320,896 and officials predict it will reach 327,313 this year.
Simply put, the waits will be long “especially Monday when people are all trying to come home at the same time,” said Ian Sterling, a Washington State Ferries spokesman.
Traditionally, some of the longest waits are for the Edmonds-Kingston and Mukilteo-Clinton routes. The state puts information online for all routes as well as the best times to travel to avoid long waits.
LaBoe said travelers can get the latest information on traffic through the department’s mobile app, Twitter and Facebook accounts. In addition, traffic cameras and travel alerts can be accessed online through the agency web site.
You can also call the 511 travel information hotline and highway advisory alerts are played on radio on 530 AM and 1610 AM.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @dospueblos