Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer travel season, and this year could be a doozy.
Construction projects will be put on hold for the heavy traffic weekend, including Monday. After that, all bets are off.
I-5 in Seattle and the south Sound area is getting a multi-year facelift that will include weekend lane closures starting in June.
I-90 is undergoing its own multi-year project to help ease summer and holiday congestion with added lanes, new bridges and rock blasting. That’s in addition to summer paving and bridge repairs.
And closer to home, there are all kinds of paving, painting and other road-related projects planned that will slow drivers — whether you’re winding through the Skykomish Valley toward the mountains or cruising up I-5 toward Canada.
But first, there’s Memorial Day weekend to slog through.
AAA predicts Seattle will be a Top 10 destination for the holiday based on bookings data.
Nationally, the travel agency projects more than 39 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more for the weekend, a 2.7 percent increase from last year.
It’s expected to be the highest Memorial Day travel volume since 2005.
“The expected spike in Memorial Day travel mirrors the positive growth seen throughout the travel industry this year,” said Jennifer Cook, AAA Washington spokesperson, in a press release. “Higher confidence has led to more consumer spending, and many Americans are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel this Memorial Day.”
According to local traffic-data company INRIX, drivers headed out of Seattle can expect the following delays:
- Most delays will occur Friday, most noticeably between 3 and 8 p.m.
- Travelers making the 100-plus mile journey to the Canadian border via I-5 should prepare for a 40-minute delay if heading north Friday evening.
- Drivers wishing to reach The Gorge in George should prepare for more than an hour of additional travel time Friday afternoon and evening.
- Travelers heading to Winthrop in Eastern Washington should also expect travel time to increase by an hour and a half Friday afternoon.
If you’re heading out of town, try to leave Thursday or get out of work early Friday.
Long lines for Washington State Ferries typically begin Thursday on Memorial Day weekend. Travelers who can walk or bicycle onto a ferry as foot passengers are encouraged to do so. Some routes might be on holiday schedules. For your future holiday weekend planning, keep in mind reservations are available for a few routes. Learn more and find current wait times at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries.
For those heading over Stevens Pass on U.S. 2, the Washington State Department of Transportation predicts moderate to heavy traffic starting eastbound at 10 a.m. Friday. The worst backups on U.S. 2 over the pass are likely to fall from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday as folks hustle back west for work and school.
That said, as many east Snohomish County residents can attest, there’s often no good time to travel on U.S. 2 on a Monday holiday. Memorial Day 2015 marked an especially bad year, with delays of nearly three hours for some drivers.
All it takes is a crash or a rainstorm to throw things off. So be sure the gas tank is full and pack plenty of snacks, water and entertainment for the kids in car seats.
Find the state’s other congestion forecasts at wsdotblog.blogspot.com.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also offers these summer driving safety tips:
- Get your car serviced before a road trip — check the battery, oil and rotate the tires.
- Check for recalls. Look up your vehicle at www.nhtsa.gov/recalls.
- Closer to leaving, double-check your tire pressure, lights, fluid levels, wiper blades and other easily overlooked areas.
Melissa Slager: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3432.