Expect a lot of company as you make your way to your Fourth of July celebrations this holiday weekend.
A record number of travelers are expected to hit the roads this year, thanks in part to the lowest gas prices in more than a decade.
“Anyone who is coming home on a Monday afternoon on the Fourth of July is going to hit traffic,” said Andrea Flatley, a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman. Extra congestion could be particularly acute on Friday and Sunday this year as well. “There are going to be a lot of people on the road. Drivers just need to plan for that.”
Going over the water?
The Fourth is the busiest weekend of the year for Washington State Ferries. Heavy vehicle traffic is expected from Thursday through Tuesday.
Reservations are encouraged on the few routes where they’re available. For the San Juan Islands, final reservation spaces are opened two days before each sailing. WSF recommends drivers arrive 60-90 minutes early for Edmonds-Kingston sailings, which will be on a holiday schedule on the Fourth.
Extra sailings will be added to the Mukilteo-Clinton route on Thursday (departing Clinton at 10 p.m., Mukilteo at 10:30 p.m.) and Tuesday (9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.). The route will be on a Sunday schedule for the Fourth. Drivers are encouraged to arrive one hour early for sailings.
Going east of the mountains?
U.S. 2 is a go-to for many Snohomish County drivers, particularly those who live east and north. I-90 can seem far away, and comes with the dreaded thread through Seattle.
But in some cases — even with reduced lanes in work zones and a host of other summer construction projects this year — I-90 might still be the less sticky of two very long slime trails.
“(U.S. 2) is an option, but it won’t necessarily be a better option,” Flatley said.
Drivers returning from east of the mountains Sunday discovered that too late when they hit hours-long delays heading west on U.S. 2. One woman reported a 25-mile backup, from Skykomish to Sultan. She left a wedding in Quincy at 3 p.m. and, with several stops to feed an infant, didn’t get home to Lake Stevens until 10:30 p.m. — more than twice the usual trip time.
The delays were unusual even for U.S. 2. Revelers returning from the Paradiso Festival at The Gorge Amphitheatre added to the glut. There were delays on I-90 as well, but not quite so long.
U.S. 2 saw extra congestion that weekend, and likely will see some extra traffic this holiday weekend. But the same reality applies on routine Sundays, Flatley added. “The capacity just doesn’t hold the volume, no matter what is going on.”
Going anywhere at all?
No matter where you are driving, consider leaving a day early or a day later to avoid the worst congestion. Also try to hit the road very early or very late in the day, especially Sunday or the holiday.