The more you know: The best and worst times to travel for Labor Day weekend
Use WSDOT tools and tips for smoother travel
August 31, 2023
OLYMPIA – People planning their final festivities of summer before all things pumpkin spice and yellow school buses return should consult the Washington State Department of Transportation’s holiday traffic volume charts to determine best times to travel during the Labor Day weekend.
With the popular travel weekend fast approaching, now is the time to make plans for expected holiday congestion on most routes – whether by ferry, vehicle, bus, rail, foot, bicycle or plane. This year’s charts include US 2, Interstate 90 and I-5 between Lacey and Tacoma as well as Bellingham to the United States-Canada border.
Most construction will be paused over the three-day weekend to help reduce some congestion, but this is a popular travel weekend and WSDOT recommends people go early or late and give themselves plenty of extra time. Crashes or emergency road repairs also can add to travel times.
Travelers can “know before they go” and plan ahead by using WSDOT tools and tips, whether they’re traveling across town or across the Evergreen State including:
· Get informed about WSDOT's online tools, including the WSDOT mobile app, traffic cameras and email alerts.
· Visit online traveler information for traffic, weather, ferry schedules and a real-time travel map.
· Follow WSDOT on various social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and X (formerly known as Twitter).
· Identify potential safety rest areas before heading out, to ensure enough breaks to avoid drowsy driving.
· Pre-program vehicle radios to 530 AM and 1610 AM for highway advisory radio alerts – and be alert for other stations listed on notice signs in some areas.
· Have a backup outdoor destination as parks and other outdoor recreation sites tend to fill up quickly on holiday weekends. If a site’s parking is full, never park along road shoulders, as this is unsafe for everyone on the roadway, including emergency response vehicles.
Most state highway construction work is suspended through the holiday weekend – including Monday, Sept. 4 – to ease congestion. For central Washington travelers, on SR 970 near Teanaway River east of Cle Elum, contractor crews are working on a project to fix roadway erosion that requires around-the-clock single-lane, alternating traffic which is projected to result in delays of up to 3 hours during the Labor Day weekend. To reduce these long delays, WSDOT is restricting westbound traffic on SR 970 to local traffic only starting 7 a.m. Friday, Sept. 1 through 7 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5. Travelers on southbound US 97 headed west from Wenatchee will detour to I-90. Please stay alert for new lane shifts or other work zone staging areas that may remain in place. And please give any emergency repair crews plenty of space to work safely.
No construction is planned on I-90 from Friday, Sept. 1, through to Tuesday, Sept. 5. However, the usual holiday increase in traffic volumes means travelers should expect delays, especially eastbound on Friday and westbound on Monday (see charts for more detail). Text message alerts about significant delays are available by texting the words “WSDOT Snoqualmie” to 468311.
In the Puget Sound region, weekend toll rates will be in effect on Monday, Sept. 4, on the State Route 520 bridge and SR 99 tunnel. The I-405 express toll lanes will be free and open to all drivers on the Monday holiday. 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. Peak travel times on most routes are expected to be westbound or island-bound Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, and eastbound or off-island Sunday through Tuesday, Sept. 3-5. Customers can bypass vehicle lines by traveling as a walk-on passenger and usually board much faster.
· All riders should double check the sailing schedules and sign up to receive rider alerts as last-minute delays or canceled sailings are possible based on vessel and crew availability.
· Visit the Washington State Ferries website for more details on making a vehicle reservation for some routes, track the vessels on a real-time map and terminal status.
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 plan to arrive at the station one hour before departure. Trains are running between Vancouver, British Columbia and Eugene, Oregon, stopping at 18 stations along the way. Buses also are available for travel between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia and between Seattle and Bellingham. Visit http://www.AmtrakCascades.com/ or call 800-USA-RAIL for tickets and schedules.
· For information about traveling via state-sponsored airports, visit wsdot.wa.gov/travel/aviation/airports-list or call 360-788-7437.
· 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.