WSDOT: Travel patterns hard to predict for July 4th holiday

Busiest ferries times are expected the Fridays and Saturdays before and after the 4th, and July 3.

Nearly 49 million people are expected to get away this Independence Day — a record-breaking number, according to AAA. But when vacations will start is difficult to predict.

With a midweek holiday it’s really hard to tell what people’s travel habits are going to be, said Tom Pearce, a spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation.

Expect a lot of people on the roads Wednesday, Pearce said, and travelers to extend their holiday through the weekend.

But some people may take the whole week off.

WSDOT has a mobile app, which can be found at, so drivers can check travel times before heading out.

During each of the last two July Fourth holidays and the days before and after, about 1 million trips were taken on Washington State Ferries, according to Justin Fujioka, a spokesperson for WSF. The same is expected this year between June 28 and July 8.

He expects the travel rush to have already begun by Monday. The busiest times are forecast for the Fridays and Saturdays before and after Independence Day, along with July 3.

To avoid the rush, aim for an early morning or late evening sailing, or leave your car behind.

“There’s always space for walk-ons,” Fujioka said.

On Thursday, drivers taking the 11:55 a.m. or 12:40 p.m. boat out of Edmonds could be delayed getting off the ferry in Kingston due to the city’s Fourth of July parade. Waits could be up to an hour, WSF said.

The last time the Fourth of July fell on Thursday, the busiest day on the ferries was the Wednesday before, followed by the Saturdays before and after the holiday. The least crowded day was the Sunday following Independence Day — so perhaps extend that holiday to the very end.

“Of the holiday weekends this is one of the busiest,” Fujioka said. However, peak ridership on the boats has yet to hit this summer. That usually comes mid-to-late July into early August, he added.

The vast majority of travelers — 41.4 million, 4.3 percent more than last year — are expected to be on the road this year. Many might be heading to the Puget Sound with Seattle ranked third in the top 10 destinations based on AAA Travel bookings.

“This holiday builds on the strong travel demand seen for Memorial Day, and with schools now out of session across the country, families coast to coast are eager to travel,” said AAA Travel vice president Paula Twidale, in a press release.

The travel agency, working with INRIX, a Kirkland-based traffic analytics firm, predicts the worst time for traveling in the Seattle area will be Thursday between noon and 2 p.m. Nationwide the most congestion is expected Wednesday.

About 4 million people are forecast to fly, a 5.3 percent increase over 2018.

For those staying close to home, Community Transit and Everett Transit will both be running on a Sunday schedule on Thursday.

WSDOT is suspending most highway construction projects this week. However, Monday and Tuesday crews will be working on Highway 9, which will close one lane in each direction from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m near Lake Stevens.

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