OLYMPIA – Prepare for winter and pack your patience when traveling on major highway routes as winter weather is expected to set in while many get ready to hit the road for the most-traveled holiday of the year.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has many online tools to help drivers prepare for the combination of winter weather and Thanksgiving weekend backups.
For those starting their holiday travel early, weather reports indicate cooler temperatures this week and snow over all major mountain pass highways by the weekend.
WSDOT crews and equipment are ready to go for the winter season. Drivers should be prepared, check travel and roadway conditions on WSDOT’s website and pack their winter weather supplies, including tire chains. For more winter driving tips, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter.
Collisions caused by drivers who are unprepared for winter weather cause delays for everyone. Just one traffic collision or disabled vehicle can cause backups stretching for miles during already-congested holiday weekends.
Visit WSDOT’s website to see when drivers likely will see Thanksgiving weekend delays on major travel routes, including I-90, I-5 at the Canadian border and I-5 north of Olympia into Tacoma.
WSDOT’s Thanksgiving travel data is based on historic traffic patterns. The data shows:
Thanksgiving weekend remains the busiest travel holiday of the year, with traffic expected to reach five times the typical level on Wednesday, Nov. 24.
Drivers should expect double the typical Sunday traffic on both I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass and on I-5 between Olympia and Tacoma if they return home Sunday, Nov. 28.
The busiest travel times are 2-7 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving and noon-6 p.m. Sunday after Thanksgiving.
On the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, WSDOT also expects increased traffic on eastbound SR 16 over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Many drivers may not have electronic toll accounts and WSDOT expects a higher than usual number of drivers to use the tollbooths.
To give drivers a break from construction delays, work at most construction project sites around the state will move off the highway by noon Wednesday, Nov. 24, and restart Monday morning, Nov. 29. Drivers should be prepared for shifted lanes, roadway detours and reduced speed zones in places.
Know Before You Go
WSDOT offers several ways to get up-to-date traffic and construction information from our website before you leave your home or office.
Look at weather forecasts and road temperatures throughout the state.
A color-coded map shows statewide traffic conditions, including construction delays and highway incidents.
Call 511. WSDOT’s driver information phone line provides real-time traffic, incident and closure information. TTY users can call 1-800-833-6388.
On the Road
Overhead and roadside electronic signs provide emergency and incident alerts and, in some Seattle-area locations during rush hours, point-to-point travel times.
Highway advisory radio allows drivers to tune in to hear updates when the flashing lights along the highway are activated.
Amtrak Rail Services
The week of Thanksgiving is typically Amtrak’s busiest travel period of the year. Amtrak will add 11 trains along the Amtrak Cascades route between Portland and Seattle to accommodate the travel demand during the holiday week. The extra Amtrak Cascades trains will operate Wednesday, Nov. 25 through Sunday, Nov. 28.
New this year, rail passengers can take a Thanksgiving Eve red-eye train with express service from Seattle to Portland. The nonstop train will depart at midnight and arrive in Portland at 4:14 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 25.
All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations, and passengers are encouraged to purchase tickets early to obtain lowest fares. Visit www.AmtrakCascades.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for reservations and information.
Washington State Ferries (WSF)
Ferry riders can expect major traffic Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 24 in Anacortes, Mukilteo and Edmonds. WSDOT advises riders travel early Nov. 24 and 25. People can check the WSF website for updates. To help with traffic, WSF scheduled an extra sailing from Anacortes to Friday Harbor on Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 8:35 p.m.
Routes on a holiday schedule Nov. 25 include Point Defiance/Tahlequah, Seattle/Bainbridge Island, and Mukilteo/Clinton. All other routes will be on the regular Thursday schedule.
To check the status of state-operated airports, visit the state aviation website or call 1-800-552-0666. WSDOT Aviation encourages pilots to check with their local Flight Service Station for current Notices to Airmen and temporary flight restriction status before each flight. To contact the Flight Service Station, please call 1-800-WX-BRIEF. Temporary flight restriction information is available at: airspace.nifc.gov/mapping/nifc/index.cfm.
On Thanksgiving, transit systems will follow a holiday schedule or will not operate fixed route and Dial-A-Ride services. On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, many transit systems will operate on a limited schedule. Check with your local transit agency www.wsdot.wa.gov/choices/bus.cfm for more information.
WSDOT keeps people, businesses and the economy moving by operating and improving the state's transportation systems. To learn more about what we're doing, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/news for pictures, videos, news and blogs. Real time traffic information is available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic or by dialing 5-1-1.