EVERETT — If AAA’s predictions pan out, a record number of drivers will be hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend, with air travel the second highest since 2005.
Some good news though: No state highway construction work will take place in Snohomish County during the holiday, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. And most other state highway work will be suspended for the long weekend.
Memorial Day weekend often is considered the unofficial start of the summer vacation season. Across the nation, 43 million Americans are expected to get away, with 37.6 million traveling by car, up 3.5 percent compared to last year, according to AAA.
It might be hard to avoid congestion, but some times to travel are better than others.
The travel agency, working with INRIX, a Kirkland-based traffic analytics firm, predicts drivers could see some snarls in the late afternoon Thursday and Friday, as holiday travelers blend with commuters heading out early.
“Drivers in the most congested metros should expect much worse conditions than normal,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst with INRIX, in a press release. “Travelers should anticipate delays to start on Wednesday and continue through Memorial Day.”
As of Wednesday, a slight chance of rain Friday is the only wet weather forecast over the long weekend for the Snohomish County area, according to the National Weather Service. Clouds are expected to lift Saturday, as the sun comes out in the afternoon, with a high near 70. Sunday and Monday temperatures should warm a few degrees, possibly hitting the mid-to-upper 70s.
With nice weather expected around the holiday, many people won’t be staying at home. Seattle already ranks in the top 10 destinations for the long weekend.
In the Seattle metro area, INRIX and AAA expect the biggest delays to come when travelers are heading home Monday between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Travel times then are likely to be twice as long as usual.
On U.S. 2 heading over Stevens Pass to Leavenworth, WSDOT is predicting moderate to heavy traffic Friday between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m., and on Saturday starting at 8 a.m. and lasting until 3 p.m.
The worst traffic on U.S. 2 is anticipated Monday between 10 a.m. and noon, with moderate to heavy traffic likely lasting until 9 p.m., as travelers head back west.
Heading north on I-5 from Bellingham to the Canadian border, stop-and-go or at least heavy congestion is likely to occur to occur from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, with moderate to heavy volumes expected most of the day. This is anticipated to last through most of Saturday, with a short spike midday.
Coming south Sunday and Monday, WSDOT predicts moderate to heavy traffic on the interstate from the northern border most of those days.
This is also a popular weekend for riding a ferry. Expect delays and long lines.
Remember, it’s not just getting there, it’s also getting back. The return trip can set you back hours during the holiday weekend.
The Edmonds-Kingston and Mukilteo-Clinton ferry routes are expected to be two of the busiest this weekend, with 40,000 vehicles likely to board one of the lines, according to Dana Warr, a spokesperson for Washington State Ferries.
“Plan for extra travel time, and factor in backups and extended waits at the terminals,” Warr said.
About a half-million travelers are predicted to ride the ferries over the Memorial Day weekend, Warr said.
To save time, Warr encourages riders to walk or bike on, if possible.
WSDOT mobile app: www.wsdot.wa.gov/Inform/mobile.htm
Best times to travel: www.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