Be ready for especially busy holiday traffic and travel conditions

Memorial Day weekend is almost here, which means family getaways, barbecues — and heavy traffic, busy airports and extended travel times. Before you go, here what’s you need to know.

Forty-three million Americans are expected to travel, including 37.6 million who will hit the road. More people are traveling by automobile, plane, trains and other forms of transportation than last year, according to AAA.

Drivers are expected to experience the worst congestion on Thursday and Friday in the late afternoons as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers, according to a AAA news release.

“For Seattle, the longest delays will happen on Memorial Day as drivers return to the city, via I-90 West, between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m,” the news release reads.

Here’s the lowdown on other locales.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Airport officials are reminding travelers to arrive at least two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international departure.

They also ask that people avoid driving, if possible, to keep congestion in arrivals and departures down.

“Use light rail, public transit, taxis, airport shuttle or ride-share vehicles,” the airport announced.

Passenger volumes are expected to be heavy, with 163,000 passengers on Friday — the busiest day — alone.

Going to Canada?

The state Department of Transportation predicts traffic at I-5 and the Canadian border will “reach roadway capacity” several times during the holiday weekend.

“Once a roadway reaches capacity, any small incident can cause significant backups,” according to the WSDOT website.

Motorists should expect congestion or stop-and-go traffic northbound from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday.

Northbound traffic will be heaviest noon to 1 p.m. and southbound from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday. Light traffic is expected late nights and early mornings.

Olympia to Tacoma

Traveling between the two cities? Expect stop-and-go traffic to begin northbound about 10 a.m. Friday and end about 5 p.m. If you’re headed south on Friday, brace yourself. Stop-and-go traffic is expected to kick off at 7 a.m. and last until 8 p.m., as travelers head to the beach and locations south, according to WSDOT.

The busiest return time is not expected to be Monday, but Sunday. Northbound traffic volumes will begin to rise at 11 a.m. through 8 p.m., WSDOT data show.

In Lacey, the state has been busy transforming the Marvin Road overpass at I-5’s Exit 111 into a diverging diamond interchange, but not this weekend, said spokesman Doug Adamson.

“Just this weekend there will be no major traffic effects,” he said.


Snoqualmie Pass: No lane closures or other construction is planned on Interstate 90 from Friday through Tuesday. However, the usual holiday increase in traffic volumes means travelers should expect delays, especially eastbound on Friday and westbound Monday.

Chinook and Cayuse passes: Both Chinook Pass, State Route 410, and Cayuse Pass, SR 123, are expected to be open in time for the Memorial Day weekend, but exact dates and other details are still being finalized.

Tolling in Puget Sound: Weekend toll rates will be in effect on Monday on the State Route 520 bridge. The Interstate 405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers on the Monday holiday.

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