Plan ahead for smoother Memorial Day holiday travel

Memorial Day weekend travel in the Pacific Northwest is expected to increase, and the Washington State Department of Transportation advises travelers to plan ahead and utilize online tools, social media, and radio alerts, while also preparing for potential delays and exploring alternative destinations in case of overcrowding.
File photo

Consult variety of WSDOT tools before heading out

OLYMPIA – With warm weather arriving in the Pacific Northwest that means Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner and people should make plans now for a busy travel weekend – whether by road, rail, plane or ferry.

Memorial Day (May 29) weekend is often the unofficial start of summer and means increased travel and congestion on most major routes, so travelers are encouraged to pack their patience. The Washington State Department of Transportation’s travel charts are available to help people plan ahead and make the most out of their weekend, whatever their travel plans may entail.

Travel charts for the Interstate 5 US-Canadian border are returning this year after a pause for several years due to pandemic-related uncertainty about travel times. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is no longer a requirement for entry into Canada. Please note that average traffic volumes for I-5 represent 2019 pre-COVID pandemic volumes on routes for Olympia to Tacoma and Bellingham to the border. Average traffic volumes for both the I-90 and US 2 routes represent 2022 volumes as traffic has largely returned to pre-COVID volumes for those routes. The representations for all three routes are illustrated in the travel charts.

WSDOT encourages travelers to “know before they go,” and follow these tips whether traveling across town or statewide: 

  • Get informed about WSDOT’s online tools, including the WSDOT mobile app, traffic cameras and email alerts.
  • Visit online traveler information for traffic, weather, ferry schedules and a real-time travel map.
  • Follow WSDOT’s social media accounts, such as several Twitter accounts and the agency Facebook page.
  • Pre-program your vehicle radio to 530 AM and 1610 AM for highway advisory radio alerts – and be alert for other stations listed on notice signs in some areas.
  • Have a backup outdoor destination if your first choice is full or unavailable. If parking lots are full, find an alternative site and never park along road shoulders, as this is unsafe for everyone on the roadway, including emergency responders.
  • Allow extra time for travel to avoid rushing or distraction.
  • Carry extra food and water as an added precaution for emergencies or unexpected stops.

Weekend traffic is expected to begin as soon as Friday morning, May 26, on key routes, including I-5 and I-90 and on Thursday, May 25, for ferry service throughout the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands. Crashes or emergency work can add to delays during high congestion periods.

Highway construction paused

Most state highway construction work is suspended through the holiday weekend – from Friday, May 26, through Monday, May 29 – to ease congestion. Please stay alert for new lane shifts or work zone staging areas that may remain in place. And please give any emergency repair crews plenty of space to work safely.

Snoqualmie Pass

No construction or lane closures are planned on I-90 from Friday, May 26, until Tuesday, May 30. However, the usual holiday increase in traffic volumes means travelers should expect eastbound delays beginning on Friday, May 26, and westbound Monday, May 29 (see charts for more detail). Receive text message alerts about significant delays by texting the number 468311 with the words “WSDOT Snoqualmie.”

Chinook and Cayuse passes

Both State Route 123/Cayuse Pass and SR 410 Chinook Pass remain closed due to adverse road and weather conditions. A reopening date has not been determined, although crews typically reopen both routes each year around the Memorial Day weekend. Travelers can check the Chinook Pass and Cayuse Pass online reports for updates on the reopening status.

Tolling

In the Puget Sound, weekend toll rates will be in effect Friday through Monday, May 26-29, on the State Route 520 bridge and SR 99 tunnel. The I-405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers on the weekend and Monday holiday.

Ferry travel

People boarding a state ferry by vehicle should prepare for long waits. Peak travel times on most routes are expected to be westbound Thursday through Saturday, May 25-27, and eastbound, Saturday through Monday, May 27-29. Customers can bypass vehicle lines by traveling as a walk-on passenger.

  • All riders should double check the sailing schedules as some routes are operating on timetables that are different than prior to the pandemic.
  • Visit the Washington State Ferries website for more details on vehicle reservations, rider alerts and checking terminal conditions.

Trains, airports and transit

Travelers making a trip by train, personal aircraft or bus also should plan ahead to avoid holiday delays:

  • Amtrak Cascades passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early and plan to arrive at the station one hour before departure. Trains are running between Vancouver, British Columbia and Eugene, Oregon, stopping at 18 stations along the way. Buses also are available for travel between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia and between Seattle and Bellingham. Visit www.AmtrakCascades.com/ or call 800-USA-RAIL for tickets and schedules. Masks are encouraged, but not required on all trains and buses. Visit www.amtrakcascades.com/ or call 800-USA-RAIL for tickets.
  • For information about traveling via state-sponsored airports, visit wsdot.wa.gov/travel/aviation/airports-list or call 360-788-7437.
  • Check with local public transit agencies for any holiday schedule or service changes, including some Dial-A-Ride and fixed-route service that may not run on holidays.

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