We can’t stress this enough — plan ahead and leave very early. Multiple events will add up to rather sluggish Labor Day Weekend traffic throughout Western Washington.
The Washington State Department of Transportation has estimates for the best travel times. In short: mid-day travel will see the heaviest traffic. Also, check ferry times and expect long lines to cross Puget Sound.
Labor Day Weekend traffic in Seattle
Here’s what’s to know: A traffic trifecta from mega events will push hundreds of thousands of people into Seattle’s core. SoDo, downtown, and the Seattle Center will all get hit at once with heavy traffic coming off of I-5, I-90 and Highway 99. It will be a downtown-sized bottleneck.
Mariners vs. Athletics: Friday at 7:10 p.m.; Saturday 6:10 p.m.; and Sunday at 1:10 p.m. All three games are at Safeco Field. You can expect packed light rail lines and roads around the stadium, especially coming off of I-5 and I-90 into SoDo. Good luck with parking.
Sept. 1-3 at Seattle Center. Seattle’s end of summer arts festival always attracts thousands of participants to see three days of music and more. Transit and traffic is likely to swell around the Seattle Center with fans for Weezer, The Roots, Margaret Cho, and more.
The nearest major routes are likely to slow. This includes Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue). The Mercer mess could also get extra messy with traffic coming to the festival off of I-5. Denny Way to the south could also get hit with heavy traffic.
Sept. 1-4 at the Washington State Convention Center at the heart of Pike and Pine Streets. The “Penny Arcade Expo” or PAX is the largest gaming convention on the planet and is expected to attract more than 80,000 people to downtown Seattle. And don’t expect the crowds to lessen during the evening. PAX after-parties all over town have become as nearly as popular as the event itself.
Road construction crews generally take a break over the holidays, but there will be some remnants of ongoing work that will slow down major routes.
I-90: Lane reductions on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass and on through Cle Elum will tighten traffic on this major freeway. The popular Ellensburg Rodeo (see below) will be one event filling this lane-restricted route.
Highway 2: Expect delays along Highway 2. You can read more here about why lately traffic is so bad lately on this highway. But Labor Day Weekend traffic is expected to snarl as drivers escape Western Washington for the three-day break.
Washington State Fair – Puyallup
The Washington State Fair kicks off on Friday and runs Sept. 1-24 in Puyallup. That means I-5, Highways 512 and 167, and other routes south of Seattle will be packed with fair-goers eager for face paint, miniature horses, and concerts. Nickelback is opening up the fair on Friday. Lady Antebellum is taking the stage Saturday night. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith will perform on Sunday. All concerts are likely to draw considerable crowds driving to the show.
Ellensburg Rodeo – Ellensburg
The popular Ellensburg Rodeo is all weekend and will add to the congestion along I-90, which will already be tight from lane restrictions (see above).
Evergreen State Fair – Monroe
It’s the final weekend of the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe. Country Music star Trace Adkins is performing Friday night. Highway 522 leads into the area, as well as Highway 2. As stated above, Highway 2 is already expected to be slow.