Plan ahead: WSDOT’s recipe for stress-free holiday travel

If ferry travel is in your holiday plans, make sure to pack your patience. (Photo courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation)

Whether heading across the state or just across town this Thanksgiving weekend, there’s a good chance of encountering extra traffic and congestion. Which is why holiday travel prep is so important, the Washington State Department of Transportation said in a news release.

WSDOT urges all travelers to “know before you go” and plan head for the busy holiday weekend. Staying informed throughout a trip also allows travelers to react to any winter weather, delays or other issues without missing the holiday feast or a big game.

The agency provides several tools to help plan holiday travels:

  • Consult WSDOT’s travel times charts, which use historical information to help drivers plan the best times to travel. (There are no charts for I-5 at the Canadian border this year because it only recently reopened and COVID-19 testing and vaccination 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 chainsand 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.

This year, 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 may have snow or ice on them longer, some road or pass closures may last longer and some areas may not get plowed as often as in years past. Crews need the public’s help in preventing avoidable closures by ensuring vehicles have proper equipment and drivers 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 volume and/or critical roads.

Those traveling to the Friday, Nov. 26, Apple Cup football game in Seattle should prepare for possible winter weather on passes and allow extra time on Thursday evening or Friday morning as people make their way to the 5 p.m. game.

Track the conditions of any mountain pass using the updated mountain passes page on the WSDOT website.

  • 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 and no nearby emergency response services.
  • On Interstate 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.

In the Puget Sound area, the SR 520 bridge and SR 99 tunnel will have weekend toll rates on Thanksgiving, Nov. 25, returning to weekday rates on Friday, Nov. 26. On the I-405 express toll lanes, travel is free for everyone on the Thanksgiving holiday, returning to normal toll and HOV requirements from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday. Weekends are always free to travel in the express toll lanes.

People riding a state ferry should keep updated with the latest sailing schedules online as additional sailings may be added at a moment’s notice if there is adequate crewing.

  • Peak travel times on most routes are expected to be westbound (or onto an island) Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 24, through Thursday morning, Nov. 25, then eastbound (or off island) Thursday afternoon through Friday, Nov. 26. Customers also can bypass vehicle lines by traveling as a walk-on passenger.
  • There will be a few schedule changes on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 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 alertsand 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.

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 Thanksgiving trains this year. Passengers departing or arriving in Tacoma are reminded to use the new Tacoma Dome Station at 422 E. 25th All Amtrak Cascades trains require reservations and trains fill up quickly during holidays. Visit 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.
  • 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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