Heavy traffic, crowded airports expected for Thanksgiving travel

Nov 16, 2022, 11:56 AM
thanksgiving travel...
Passenger numbers at SEA airport are expected to get close to pre-pandemic levels during Thanksgiving weekend, according to the Port of Seattle. (Photo from the Port of Seattle)
(Photo from the Port of Seattle)

Drivers hitting the roads for the Thanksgiving holiday should prepare for delays, according to the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

The agency released new charts illustrating the estimated busiest times to travel on major roads in western Washington from Nov. 23 through Nov. 28, based on historical data. The department focused on three major routes: Interstate 5 from Lacey to Tacoma and the Stevens and Snoqualmie passes.

Washington could top pre-pandemic Thanksgiving travel volumes in 2021

On I-5, travelers heading north could see heavy congestion starting as early as 5 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving and continuing through Wednesday afternoon. Traffic should ease on Thanksgiving Day, before picking up again Friday and through the weekend, according to WSDOT.

Those heading east over I-90 will also see delays Wednesday, which are predicted to lessen on Thursday and Friday. Westbound driving is expected to be relatively smooth until Saturday and Sunday, when many holiday travelers return to the Seattle area. Those heading through Snoqualmie pass can sign up for text alerts about delays by texting “WSDOT Snoqualmie” to 468311.

U.S. Route 2 over Stevens Pass doesn’t face significant congestion until the Friday after Thanksgiving when eastbound drivers could see backup starting in the mid-morning. Westbound travel is expected to be most affected on Sunday, beginning around noon.

For those catching a flight, passenger numbers at SEA airport are expected to get close to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Port of Seattle. The busiest day is expected to be Wednesday, Nov. 23, with a forecasted 155,000 passengers traveling through the airport. The next busiest will be Friday, Nov. 18, projecting 146,000 overall passengers through the airport, followed by Saturday, Nov. 26 with a projected 142,000 travelers through the airport.

Those taking a ferry should also prepare for long waits. Washington State Ferries said the biggest delays will be for those heading westbound or onto an island on both Wednesday, Nov. 23, and Thanksgiving Day. Eastbound traffic will be heaviest Friday and Saturday, Nov. 25-26. WSF said customers can save time and bypass vehicle lines by traveling as a walk-on passenger.

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Heavy traffic, crowded airports expected for Thanksgiving travel