Not even high gas prices will keep holiday traffic at bay.
Going into Memorial Day weekend, gas is the most expensive it’s been in four years. And we can expect those pump prices to keep rolling higher. Already, Washington is the third-most expensive gas market in the nation, behind California and Hawaii, at an average of $3.41 per gallon, according to a recent AAA review.
Memorial Day often kicks off the summer travel season. This year, high gas prices could drive down summer road trips, according to some surveys.
But not everyone will stay home. And for this holiday weekend, while the forecast overhead is for fair skies, the forecast below is for congested roadways.
Plan your trip
The heaviest congestion on major roadways in the Puget Sound area is expected Friday afternoon as commuters mix with holiday travelers, according to Kirkland-based data-crunching group INRIX. Expect delays to be nearly double the normal trip.
Overall, Memorial Day weekend travel is expected to be 5 percent higher than last year, according to AAA. The Seattle area gets an added dose by being among the Top 10 destinations for travelers coming from other states, thanks to being a departure point for Alaskan cruises.
Road construction projects will be put on hold for the holiday weekend, including the state’s westbound U.S. 2 trestle paving.
Ferry queues will be long. Peak travel times on most routes are expected to be westbound Thursday and Friday and eastbound Monday.
Expect delays in the passes, especially on I-90. To receive text alerts on significant delays at Snoqualmie Pass, text the words “wsdot snoqualmie” to 468311.
Over Stevens Pass on U.S. 2, the worst congestion is expected westbound on Monday morning as folks head home.
The I-405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers Monday in addition to Saturday and Sunday. The Highway 520 floating bridge will charge weekend toll rates.
Sea-Tac Airport continues to get more crowded. Thursdays and Fridays are busiest. Many of those travelers are infrequent fliers. So plan to arrive early. Avoid known congestion times if you can — most notably from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., when both departures and arrivals areas are crammed — and consider public transportation or dropping off travelers at arrivals or picking up at departures.
Before hitting the road, make sure you’re gassed up and ready for long drives.
Test your battery, check for leaks, make sure all your lights work, top off fluids, replace worn windshield wipers and pump air into the tires if needed.
A good car emergency kit includes a phone charger, flashlight, extra batteries, first aid kit, basic tools, drinking water and snacks.
And be safety-aware.
Get enough sleep. Stow the phone. Mind lower speed limits through construction zones.
A “Click it or Ticket” seat-belt enforcement campaign runs through June 3. Snohomish County folks are good rule-followers already, with 95 percent of us putting on our seat belts, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
The campaign also looks for proper child restraint use.
Best times to travel: wsdot.wa.gov/congestion
Traffic alerts: www.wsdot.com/traffic/trafficalerts
Airport info and tips: www.portseattle.org/sea-tac
Summer driving tips: www.nhtsa.gov/summer-driving-tips