The Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday this year, offering more flexibility for holiday travel plans — and putting a kink in efforts to predict where and when congestion could materialize.
That is, other than the half-hour after the last big boom in the sky …
“While holidays always have increased travel, there’s less likely to be any ‘one main day’ that everyone is hitting the road at the same time, because some may travel before the Fourth, some after and some may not travel at all,” said Barbara LaBoe, a spokeswoman for the state department of transportation.
The holiday period semi-officially starts Tuesday and continues to Sunday.
But travel got off to an early, thick start Monday, especially for those taking ferries. Mukilteo-Clinton saw a 2½-hour wait. Edmonds-Kingston reached 90 minutes.
That’s similar to the experience in 2007, another year when the Fourth was on a Wednesday, when ferry wait times reached 2 hours.
WSDOT expects nearly 1 million people to ride a ferry between June 29 and July 9. Extra sailings have been added Tuesday and Wednesday on the Mukilteo-Clinton route. Ferry wait times can be especially unpredictable with the Fourth.
Keep in mind that fireworks are prohibited on ferries and buses. The Washington State Patrol will be searching for illegal fireworks at ferry docks.
On Puget Sound-area roads, Kirkland-based company INRIX predicts the worst day for travel will be 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, when drive times could be nearly twice as long as usual.
WSDOT often predicts congestion along major corridors for holidays, using data from previous years. But the Fourth is an exception since the holiday falls on various days of the week.
Travel tips instead include using apps and online resources to track conditions. Plan for extra travel time no matter the day or hour, particularly if your route involves taking a ferry. And pack extra water and supplies in case you get stuck.
High gas prices are not expected to keep many people off the roads.
Prices at the pump peaked in early June, AAA reports. The current Washington state average is $3.45 per gallon, which is 62 cents higher than the same time last year. Other nearby state averages: Idaho ($3.18), Montana ($2.95), Oregon ($3.31) and California ($3.69).
Weather also can affect folks’ travel plans. The current forecast from the National Weather Service calls for mostly sunny skies with temperatures reaching the upper 70s.
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