Ferry terminals are expected to see peak travel westbound Thursday to Saturday. Here, cars line up waiting to board the ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton on July 28. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Ferry terminals are expected to see peak travel westbound Thursday to Saturday. Here, cars line up waiting to board the ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton on July 28. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Avoid Friday and Monday travel to beat Labor Day gridlock

The holiday weekend usually has a surge of traffic at the usual chokepoints in Snohomish County.

EVERETT — Drivers who enjoy stop-and-go highway traffic can hit the road Friday afternoon and almost all day Monday.

For everyone else who loathes being stuck behind a stream of brake lights, voyaging from home over the long weekend should happen outside of those peak hours.

“With summer drawing to a close, travelers during the Labor Day weekend should plan ahead for extra congestion, including allowing extra time and traveling during non-peak times if possible,” Washington State Department of Transportation spokesperson Barbara LaBoe wrote in a news release.

Usual chokepoints on I-5 and U.S. 2, as well as historically heavily used Washington State Ferries routes, will likely see long travel times in Snohomish County.

Most highway projects are taking a break this weekend, but the I-5 south bridge across the Stillaguamish River will be closed for preservation work. Both directions cross the northbound bridge, which has caused backups.

AAA Washington anticipates a lot of drivers heading to Idaho, Montana and Oregon, based on online bookings. Travel surged this summer after sagging last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, with AAA Travel bookings up at least 11% from 2019.

I-405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers for Labor Day on Monday.

People who expect to drive for their weekend getaway should pack extra food and water in case the vehicle breaks down or a road is blocked or closed.

WSDOT staff also encourage bringing additional masks and hand sanitizer, as well as keeping the vehicle at least one-quarter filled with fuel.

Those venturing to outdoor sites should have backup options in that area if the first pick’s parking lot is full. Parking on road shoulders is dangerous and potentially illegal and could result in a towed vehicle.

Ongoing fire danger means people should not throw cigarettes or anything else that is lit out of vehicles. Also avoid parking on grass, and keep chains from dragging on pavement.

Ferry terminals are expected to see peak travel westbound Thursday to Saturday and eastbound Sunday to Tuesday. Those who can are encouraged to ditch the car and walk on, which avoids the holding lane line.

In Mukilteo, peak hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. In Clinton on Whidbey Island, it’s 8:30 a.m. and 7:35 p.m. Sunday, and as early as 5:35 a.m. Monday.

Edmonds Ferry Terminal vessels are often full between 8:50 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 7:10 a.m. through 6:15 p.m. Saturday. On the route’s west side in Kingston, vessels get full between 9:35 a.m. and 8:20 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Sailings could be thrown off schedule if there are crew shortages due to COVID-19 cases and quarantines, according to Washington State Ferries.

“Our dispatch team is working in overdrive to staff our vessels with some crew needing to quarantine, with many crewmembers holding over and working beyond their scheduled shifts to keep our vessels in service,” ferries assistant secretary Patty Rubstello said in a news release.

Ferry passengers are required to wear a face mask while inside the vessel, but not in an outdoor area such as a sundeck.

People can use WSDOT’s app and website for real-time information about the highways and ferry terminals.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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