Travel charts, other tools helpful for winter weather and holiday traffic
Whether traveling by road, ferry, train, plane – or sleigh – the best way to ensure smooth trips during the upcoming holiday weekend is to plan ahead and be prepared.
The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all travelers to “know before you go” and plan ahead for the busy holiday weekend. Staying informed throughout a trip also allows travelers to react and adjust for any winter weather, delays or other issues.
Before heading out the door, travelers should take advantage of WSDOT’s trip planning tools and advice:
- Consult WSDOT’s travel times charts, which use historical information to help drivers plan the best times to travel. (There are no charts for Interstate5 at the Canadian border this year because it only recently reopened and COVID-19 testing and vaccination entry requirements make it difficult to forecast travel patterns).
- Check out the newly updated WSDOT travel map with options to view alerts, restrictions, weather stations and traffic cameras.
- Look up real time travel data for a particular road or ferry route online using the new WSDOT website or track it on the WSDOT app.
- Follow WSDOT’s social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook.
- Pre-program 530 AM and 1610 AM to vehicle radios for highway advisory radio alerts.
- Carry chains and other winter driving essentials.
- Check current chain and traction requirements on the WSDOT mountain passes webpage, or by calling 5-1-1, and watch for highway advisory signs.
- Leave extra time for holiday and winter travel, slow down and leave extra space between vehicles when driving on snow or ice.
Changes this year
This winter, WSDOT is asking travelers to be especially prepared for winter travel as staffing challenges mean the agency may not be able to deliver the same level of service as in years past. Crews will absolutely still be out plowing roadways, but some roads highways may have snow or ice for longer periods. Some road or pass closures also may last longer, and some areas may not get plowed as often as in years past. Crews need the public to help in preventing avoidable closures by ensuring vehicles have proper equipment and that drivers follow chain requirements and are not going too fast for conditions.
WSDOT’s road work, as always, will be prioritized based on safety, resources and pre-existing plowing priority maps based on traffic volumes and/or critical roads.
For those heading across state, pass conditions are available on the updated mountain passes page on the WSDOT website.
- On I-90, Snoqualmie Pass travelers can receive text alerts for pass delays of 30 minutes or longer – text “wsdot snoqualmie” to 468311 to subscribe, and “wsdot stop” to unsubscribe. This pass in particular sees heavy traffic on most holiday weekends.
- State Route 123 Cayuse Pass, SR 410 Chinook Pass and SR 20 North Cascades Highway have all closed for the season and are not available for holiday travel. These passes close every winter due to avalanche danger, poor road conditions, lack of snow storage areas and no nearby emergency response services.
In the Puget Sound area, the SR 520 bridge’s and SR 99 tunnel’s weekend rates will be in effect on the observed holiday Friday, Dec. 24. On the I-405 express toll lanes, travel will be free for everyone on Friday, Dec. 24, returning to normal toll and HOV requirements from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 27. Weekends are always free to travel in the express toll lanes.
Traveling by ferry
People riding a state ferry should regularly check online sailing schedules. Due to an ongoing staff shortage, several routes remain on one-boat service, with a second boat added daily as crewing availability allows.
- With Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on a Saturday this year, the Thursday and Friday before, and the Sunday following each holiday are expected to be the busiest. Delays are possible in both directions on several routes.
- There will be a few schedule changes on Christmas Day, Dec. 25. Holiday timetables and sailings are marked on the schedule page for each route.
- Before heading to a terminal or boarding, customers are encouraged to sign up for ferry email alerts and check terminal conditions.
- A face covering is required in all indoor areas of vessels and terminals in compliance with the governor’s “Washington Ready” proclamation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s order for public transportation.
Other travel alternatives
Travelers planning a trip by train, personal aircraft or bus also should make plans to avoid holiday delays:
- Amtrak Cascades passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early and should plan to arrive at the station one hour before departure. There are no extra Christmas trains this year. Passengers departing or arriving in Tacoma are reminded to use the new Tacoma Dome Station at 422 E. 25th St. All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations and trains fill up quickly during holidays. Visit amtrakcascades.com/ for tickets and schedules or call 800–USA–RAIL. Transportation Security Administration regulations require all passengers to wear masks.
- Information about traveling via state-operated airports is available online or call 800-552-0666.
- Those who use public transit should check with their local provider for any holiday schedule or service changes, including some Dial-A-Ride and fixed-route service that may not run on holidays.