People wait for cars to pass by before crossing over US 2 to get to Eagle Falls on July 29, 2020 in Index. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

People wait for cars to pass by before crossing over US 2 to get to Eagle Falls on July 29, 2020 in Index. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Leave extra early or late to avoid Independence Day travel rush

Hitting the road Thursday could help skirt most of the projected traffic, whether you’re driving or taking a ferry.

EDMONDS — Soaring gas prices and temperatures could make for difficult travel choices over the Independence Day weekend this year.

Travelers are used to fuel costs rising during summer, as seen in the Energy Information Administration’s monthly price data since 1993. But the spike this year has walloped wallets.

Similarly the recent heat wave announced summer’s arrival in dramatic fashion, even if it wasn’t as sweat-inducing as last year’s heat dome.

Those two things likely are connected. A vast majority of scientific studies connects burning carbon — like coal and gasoline — to climate change, which creates cooler winters and hotter summers.

But if the allure of a weekend getaway is too compelling, know that traffic is likely. An estimated 1 million people will travel at least 50 miles in the state, according to AAA Washington. A projected 82% are driving. Another 13% will fly, and the rest are traveling by boat, bus or train.

“During the pandemic, clearly we experienced a decline in our customers booking trips internationally,” AAA Washington Vice President of Travel Michelle Glass said in a statement. “Our current summer bookings data show people are feeling safe and excited to journey outside the U.S. again.”

Following some advice on travel times and congestion points could shave a little time.

The best tip is to leave earlier or later than the rest of the horde.

For ferries and road travel, that generally means bolting Thursday before the afternoon commute crunch. If you can’t get away that early, pack up and peel out Friday and Saturday in the afternoon or evening.

Anyone driving south through Seattle should beware. Clear weather is letting Washington State Department of Transportation’s contractor work on I-5 between I-90 and Spokane Street. It requires lane closures Friday night through early Monday morning and likely most weekends through September.

Other highway projects, including on I-90, are taking a break for the holiday weekend.

Eastbound U.S. 2 could see backups11 a.m. through 5 p.m. Friday between Skykomish and Stevens Pass. That window shifts to 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and eases Sunday, according to WSDOT data.

Westbound traffic could jam the road starting Sunday afternoon and hit its peak Monday morning through the evening.

Reduced sailing schedules remain in effect for some Washington State Ferries routes, including between Edmonds and Kingston. Those plans could change if crew shortages hit and cause even longer wait times for drivers trying to catch a ferry.

The Edmonds-Kingston route is most likely to change frequently as it could add a second boat if enough crew members are available.

Two ferries are in service on the route between Mukilteo and Clinton on south Whidbey Island. Crowds flock there for the Maxwelton Independence Day Parade and to set off and watch fireworks.

“With elevated cases of COVID-19, and continued vessel and crewing availability constraints, our service restoration efforts have slowed considerably in recent weeks,” ferries leader Patty Rubstello said. Hiring employees, especially licensed deck officers, has been difficult and takes a lot of time in training.

Ferry departures going west and onto an island Thursday and Friday are likely to see the longest waits, according to WSDOT data. Those delays turn to sailings east and off an island Monday and Tuesday.

Going early in the morning or later in the evening, or walking on, can avoid some of the wait.

Travelers can check terminal conditions via online cameras of the holding lanes and nearby roads at bit.ly/3QS3Nhr. Best travel times are available at bit.ly/3npW7FS.

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

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