People preparing for festivities this season are urged to plan for winter weather and expect delays while traveling on state highways, waterways or railways.
One way to help ensure holiday magic isn’t dimmed by delays is to consult the Washington State Department of Transportation’s popular travel charts to determine best times to travel, including times to avoid if possible. The Interstate 5 Canadian border forecast is not included due to unreliable pandemic travel data the last several years. Travel charts are based on 2019 pre-pandemic volumes.
The agency provides several tools to help prepare for winter travels – whether by vehicle, foot or sleigh:
Look up real-time travel conditions for state highways or ferry routes online using the WSDOT website or track it on the WSDOT mobile app.
Follow WSDOT’s social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook, for updates on potential crashes or road closures.
Pre-program 530 AM and 1610 AM to vehicle radios for highway advisory radio alerts.
Carry chains and other winter travel essentials.
Check the WSDOT mountain passes webpage for information on pass updates or the latest chain or traction tire requirements. The Washington State Patrol has more information about traction tire regulations and chain alternatives.
Leave extra time for holiday and winter travel, slow down, leave extra space between vehicles when driving on snow or ice and watch for bicyclists or those using crosswalks.
Sign up for area-specific news about road closures or incidents, whether close to home or areas that are part of holiday travel plans.
Cross-state travel and mountain passes
WSDOT reminds drivers to follow posted chain requirements and slow down on snow and ice. An online winter travel reminders video has tips on how to check traction tire treads, alternatives to chains and what to carrying vehicles during winter travel.
No construction is planned on most state roads from Friday to Monday – including on I-90 and Snoqualmie Pass. However, the usual holiday increase in traffic volumes means travelers should expect delays on I-90, especially eastbound on Thursday and Friday and westbound on Monday and Tuesday. Text message alerts about significant delays on Snoqualmie Pass are available by texting the words “WSDOT Snoqualmie” to 468311.
Where’s the plow?
WSDOT crews work around the clock clearing and treating highways throughout the state. Plow drivers must travel 35 mph or slower to apply de-icer or salt and to appropriately clear the roadway of snow. Snowplows also often use “tandem plowing” — staggered plows working together to clear an area more efficiently.
Several plows have been struck by motorists this winter, which is dangerous for everyone on roadways and also takes the plows off the road during storms. Plow drivers’ peripheral vision is limited while moving snow off roadways, so all drivers are reminded to give plows plenty of room to do their work and never pass on the right – or on either side if there’s not sufficient room to do so safely.
In the Puget Sound, weekend toll rates will be in effect on Monday for the State Route 520 bridge and SR 99 tunnel. The I-405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers on Monday. Out-of-town travelers, including those using rental cars, can learn about toll roads and temporary account payment options on the Good To Go! visitors page.
People boarding a state ferry by vehicle should prepare for long waits. With Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on a Sunday this year, the Friday and Saturday before each holiday are expected to be the busiest. Delays are possible in both directions on all routes. 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, ferry email alerts, checking terminal conditions and COVID-19 travel updates.
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 operate over holidays.
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 should plan to arrive at the station one hour before departure. Trains are running between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon, and between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. Buses also are operating for travel between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, and between Seattle and Bellingham. 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 email Paul Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
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.
Popular travel charts: wsdot.wa.gov/travel/holiday-weekend-travel
Real-time travel conditions: wsdot.com/Travel/Real-time/Map
WSDOT mobile app: wsdot.wa.gov/travel/travel-information-phone
Winter travel essentials: wsdot.com/travel/real-time/mountainpasses/emergencycarkit
WSDOT mountain passes: wsdot.com/travel/real-time/mountainpasses/
Traction tire regulations and chain alternatives: wsp.wa.gov/driver/vehicle-equipment-requirements/
Winter travel: wsdot.com/winter/
Sign up: public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WADOT/subscriber/new
Posted chain requirements: wsdot.com/travel/real-time/mountainpasses/tiresandchains
Slow down on snow and ice: wsdot.wa.gov/publications/fulltext/winter/winter-driving-guide.pdf
Winter travel reminders video: youtu.be/uQiz0O9bQDI
Clear the roadway of snow: wsdot.wa.gov/travel/operations-services/snow-and-ice-plan
Tandem plowing: youtu.be/KlrCI2PMMI0
Visitor page: mygoodtogo.com/EN/learn/how-to-pay/visitors
Sailing schedules: wsdot.com/ferries/schedule/Default.aspx
Washington State Ferries website: wsdot.wa.gov/travel/washington-state-ferries www.wsdot.wa.gov/travel/washington-state-ferries