Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Give yourself some extra travel time this Fourth of July – and all summer long

by Barbara LaBoe

Hitting the road this Fourth of July?  Or maybe the weekend before the holiday?  We don’t create travel charts for midweek holidays, but whether you’re driving on our highways or taking one of our ferries, you should still plan for extra travel time during the weekend and the holiday itself.

Where are my travel charts?
We don’t produce travel charts on midweek holidays because it’s harder to predict which day people will travel – if they do at all. If holiday travel is spread over several days, we also don’t see as many bottlenecks or congestion on any one day or time. In addition, the historical data isn’t as helpful. The last Tuesday July 4 we had was 2006 and the last one before that was 2000. The population and even some roads have changed a lot since then, so our forecasts wouldn’t be as useful as they are for annual weekend holidays such as Labor Day.

Like any holiday weekend, Independence Day weekend is a busy one on the roads and drivers should expect some delays on major travel routes.
That said, with summer travel and a number of construction projects across the state, we expect EVERY weekend to have potential for congestion – especially for those traveling east or west, with work scheduled on I-90, US 12 and US 2. We want you to be prepared. Plan out your route ahead of time, give yourself extra travel time and make sure you have plenty of gas, water and snacks in case you get stuck in a traffic backup.

Get updated travel information from our app or any of our online tools, including social media. You can also call 511 for travel alerts or visit our travel alert website. Please do NOT check the road status on your phone while behind the wheel – have a passenger check or pull over at a safe spot.

Why is all this construction happening now?
Summer is our busy construction season because it’s the season with the dry weather required for a lot of our work. We know people also travel during the summer, so we try to keep disruptions to a minimum wherever possible.

We halt construction on major holidays – and will do so this coming weekend. Often, though, the detours and lane changes must remain in place. In some cases, the roadway or bridge is torn up and we couldn’t divert traffic back on it even if barriers were moved. In other cases, leaving the barriers in place allows work to resume more quickly and helps shorten the overall construction and disruption. So, weekend drivers will still see some work zones even without active work. Other work is specifically done on weekends or in the evenings to try to avoid major traffic.

As for tolling, the SR 520 bridge will be on its new weekend toll rates on Tuesday, July 4, and the I-405 express toll lanes will be free for everyone on that day (no pass or carpool needed). The Good To Go! visitors’ guide is a great resource for out-of-towners.

Fourth of July is one of the busiest travel times for our ferry system, with about 430,000 passengers riding during last year’s holiday weekend. We expect similar numbers this year so plan for longer than usual wait times, make vehicle reservations to the San Juans, Sidney, B.C. or Port Townsend/Coupeville, and if possible, consider walking on.
Fourth of July weekend is one of the busiest of the year for our ferry system and passengers should expect longer than normal waits and may consider walking on.

Passengers sailing between Mukilteo and Clinton should take note that a smaller vessel will be serving the run as the Tokitae is undergoing federally required inspections. We’ll add extra service as needed late night on July 3 and 4 but please plan ahead as the smaller boat could lead to longer wait times.

We’ll also have extra sailings between Vashon Island and Fauntleroy, along with the Anacortes and San Juan Island routes. There will also be some adjusted schedules so be sure to check our summer schedule (pdf 911 kb).

Fireworks shows
Many of us like a good firework show. Unfortunately, every year we see people try to avoid the crowds at venues putting on the shows and sometimes stopping on highway shoulders or even off- and on-ramps to watch the show. This is a bad idea, creates a significant road hazard and can lead to collisions. Please don’t stop on highways or ramps to watch the shows, and if you’re driving during a firework show, please keep your eyes on the road.
Please remember not to stop on highways or on- and off-ramps to watch fireworks as this is a major safety hazard.
(Photo by Bruce Ikenberry)

Give ‘em a Brake
Speaking of work zones, please stay extra alert through all work zones you may encounter this summer. Please SLOW DOWN and STAY ALERT any time you enter an area with crews working. We average more than 900 work zone crashes on state roads each year and almost all are preventable by simply paying attention and following signs and directions. And remember, 96 percent of injuries in work zone crashes are not to workers, but to the driver or passenger of the other vehicles involved. So it’s in your and your family’s best interest to be as safe as possible.

The crews out there are working hard to keep your roadway safe and they need your help ensuring everyone makes it home safe to their families each night.