Drivers thinking of a hot Thanksgiving dinner to ward off the early winter chill should first help themselves to a serving of traffic and travel information on one of Washington’s busiest holiday travel weekends.
Drivers can prepare for the combination of possible winter driving conditions and Thanksgiving weekend backups with real-time traffic information and mountain pass conditions on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) Web site. Drivers can prepare for winter weather by packing cold-weather supplies and tire chains, and checking travel and roadway conditions on WSDOT’s Web site before hitting the highways.
Temperatures remain below freezing in most of the state, but WSDOT maintenance crews have worked around the clock to keep Washington’s major highways bare and dry. Drivers should still expect ice in places, especially on less-traveled roadways, and prepare for changing weather and road conditions all along their holiday route. Forecasts call for more than a foot of new snow in the mountain passes by Friday.
The Washington State Patrol will have extra patrols out this holiday weekend looking for impaired drivers. WSP asks drivers to make time for a safe commute by slowing down, increasing their following distance, and not drinking and driving.
Troopers have been working this week to help drivers in the snow and ice. As the weather begins to improve, WSP will aggressively be looking for impaired drivers. The road conditions have been challenging this week, and WSP is asking drivers to plan accordingly.
I. Mountain Pass Highways including I-90 Snoqualmie Pass, US 2 Stevens Pass and US 12 White Pass
— Drivers should prepare for winter driving conditions and traction tire requirements through the weekend.
— Forecasts call for more than a foot of new snow in the mountain passes by Friday.
II. Puget Sound to the Oregon Border
— I-5 should be mostly bare, with icy spots in a few areas. The Mount Baker Ski Area (SR 542/ Bellingham) is open and should see significant traffic during the holiday weekend. The ski area expects 15 inches of new snow by Saturday.
— I-5 through Pierce and Thurston is currently bare and dry with ice in places. Drivers will also see ice and snow on the shoulders.
— Drives will see bare and dry highways on ocean routes, such as SR 8, SR 12 and on US 101 but should be prepared for areas of compact snow and ice.
— Drivers can expect bare and dry conditions on both I-5 and SR 14 through Southwest Washington, with some icy spots possible on ramps, bridges, overpasses and shady areas.
III. Eastern Washington
Cold temperatures will stay around much longer in Eastern Washington. Drivers should also expect compact snow and ice at freeway on/off ramps and bridges.
— Interstate 90 between the Grant/Lincoln County line and the Idaho border is bare and dry with compact snow and ice in places.
— US 2, US 195, and US 395 have compact snow and ice.
— Check Spokane-area road conditions.
IV. Amtrak Rail Services
Thanksgiving week 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 heavy travel demand. The extra Amtrak Cascades trains will operate Wednesday, Nov. 25 through Sunday, Nov. 28. Visit http://www.AmtrakCascades.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for reservations and information.
V. 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 Web site 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 Web site 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 http://airspace.nifc.gov/mapping/nifc/index.cfm .
VII. Public Transportation
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 http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/choices/bus.cfm for more information.