Holiday driving might be easier, but ferries will be packed

The daily commutes this week could be less congested, but plan ahead just in case.

EVERETT — If you’re traveling this week or next for Christmas or the New Year, odds are you’ll hit traffic somewhere along the way.

With the holiday on Wednesday, the Washington State Department of Transportation said it couldn’t accurately predict when and where people will travel. In years past, WSDOT has offered a look at expected traffic volume during the day. The idea is that some people may have taken the weekdays leading up to it off from work, alleviating some Christmas Day traffic.

“Now with Christmas in the middle of the week, we don’t know if people are taking an extra day,” said WSDOT spokesperson Lisa Van Cise, who recommended people check road conditions before they head out.

More than 100 million Americans were expected to drive for the holidays, according to AAA. The worst period for travel in the Seattle area was projected to be 4:15p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Friday, per data from AAA and INRIX, a Kirkland-based transportation analytics company.

“Commute traffic will be light between now and New Year’s Day as many people take this time off work to visit family and friends,” said Kelly Just, public relations and traffic safety manager for AAA Washington. ”Roads around our airports and shopping areas will be very heavy, and we are experiencing winter weather in our mountain passes, so drivers should be prepared for tough conditions …”

Washington State Ferries was expecting the usual holiday surge.

More than 700,000 people were projected to board a ferry between Friday, Dec. 20, and Monday, Dec. 30. That means wait times of an hour or more, especially on the Edmonds-Kingston and Clinton-Mukilteo routes. Both routes will have an altered schedule on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

People planning to drive on a ferry can receive ferry travel alerts by phone about vehicle wait times. It’s also recommended that ferry commuters check terminal conditions online or in the WSDOT app before heading out.

Community Transit and Everett Transit routes will operate on a Sunday schedule on the two holidays. Community Transit’s Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve bus service also will be limited.

The Sound Transit Sounder train won’t run Christmas Day or New Year’s Day and will have reduced service Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

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

Travel information

WSDOT mobile app: www.wsdot.wa.gov/Inform/mobile.htm

Traffic alerts: www.wsdot.com/traffic/trafficalerts

Airport info and tips: www.portseattle.org/sea-tac

Winter driving essentials: www.wsdot.com/winter/default.htm

WSDOT mountain passes: www.wsdot.com/traffic/passes

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