Brace for Memorial Day weekend traffic and long ferry lines

Leave at non-peak hours to avoid road congestion and ferry backups. The passes will be busy, too.

MUKILTEO — Expect highway congestion and long lines at ferry terminal holding lanes this holiday weekend.

AAA Washington estimates 975,000 from the state will travel at least 50 miles this Memorial Day weekend. Most — about 814,500 people — are expected to drive.

That causes busy ferry terminals, congested roads and slow-going over mountain passes.

INRIX, a Kirkland-based transportation data company, predicts the longest travel delays on Thursday and Friday afternoons.

The Washington State Ferries system is just recovering from staffing shortages through the pandemic. The Mukilteo-Clinton route, one of the state’s busiest, recently resumed two-boat service.

Ferry terminals are busy during most holiday weekends heading onto Whidbey Island Thursday and Friday, as well as leaving the island Sunday and Monday.

People could avoid some long waits by boarding without a vehicle and checking terminal conditions.

Holiday schedules will affect service Memorial Day on the Anacortes-San Juan Islands, Mukilteo-Clinton and Point Defiance-Tahlequah routes. The Edmonds-Kingston route could be on a holiday schedule if supplemental service is added.

Ferry passengers aren’t required to wear a mask aboard the vessels, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend wearing one.

Traffic could surge on mountain passes heading east Thursday, Friday and Saturday, then west Monday, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

U.S. 2 over Stevens Pass could see eastbound traffic build Thursday afternoon, become congested Friday late morning to evening, and wane Saturday afternoon. Westbound travelers could be in the thick of traffic Saturday afternoon and most of Monday.

WSDOT projects a similar pattern for I-90 between North Bend and Cle Elum.

Drivers should have their cars serviced and fueled up, with a restocked emergency kit, before making long journeys, according to AAA Washington.

State parks tend to become busy, as well, during the holiday weekend. Hopeful adventurers should have backup options in case trailhead parking lots are full.

I-405 express toll lanes will be free all weekend, including Monday for the holiday.

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

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