Pack chains and supplies to be ready for increased Thanksgiving travel on most major routes
OYLMPIA – Travelers headed over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday will want to plan now for winter weather. They also should expect delays on most major routes like Interstate 90, US 2, and I-5 both between Lacey and Tacoma and from Bellingham to the Canadian border.
In addition to gratitude lists and pumpkin pie, the Washington State Department of Transportation encourages all travelers to pack their patience and “know before you go” by consulting the agency’s popular holiday travel charts to determine best times to travel, including times to avoid if possible .
Most construction will be paused over the four-day weekend to help reduce congestion, but this is a popular travel weekend and WSDOT recommends people travel early or late, if possible, and give themselves plenty of extra time. Crashes or emergency road repairs also can add to travel times.
WSDOT has many tools and resources to help plan travel, whether making a trip across town or over the Cascade mountains:
Crews are ready for winter; are you?
WSDOT crews are prepped for winter weather – including pre-treating and plowing to keep everyone moving. Travelers can help by being prepared for winter weather driving conditions , slowing down on snow and ice, putting the phone down and never driving impaired. People can sign up for area-specific communication about road closures or scheduled maintenance activities including areas close to home or areas they’ll be traveling to for the holiday .
Weather conditions over mountain passes can change rapidly so it’s important for travelers to plan ahead and follow posted chain requirements . It’s often drivers who travel too fast, without traction tires or chains or under the influence that close a mountain pass for everyone. Practice installing chains before heading out the door – and not for the first time along the side of highway during a winter storm.
No construction is planned on I-90 Thursday and Friday, Nov. 23-24. However, the usual holiday increase in traffic volumes means travelers should expect delays, especially eastbound on Wednesday and Thursday and westbound on Friday and Saturday ( see charts for more detail ). Receive text message alerts about closures and delays by texting “Start” to 85107. To unsubscribe text “Stop.”
In the Puget Sound region, weekend toll rates will be in effect Thursday, Nov. 23, 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 Thanksgiving. 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 onto an island) Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 22-23, then eastbound (or off an island), Friday and Saturday, Nov. 24-25. Customers also can bypass vehicle lines by traveling as a walk-on passenger.
Visit the Washington State Ferries website for more details on sailings schedules, vehicle reservations, ferry alerts and terminal conditions.
Travelers making a trip by train, personal aircraft or bus also should plan ahead to avoid holiday delays:
Draft plan recommends highway investment strategy for next 20 years
OLYMPIA – A draft plan outlining investment recommendations for preserving, maintaining, improving and operating state highways for the next 20 years is now available for public review and comment. Comments on the draft Highway System Plan will be accepted through Monday, Dec. 18.
The Washington State Department of Transportation last published the plan in 2007. The new draft plan used scenario planning with extensive feedback to explore different investment alternatives and make the strongest recommendation.
Communities from around the state provided input to the draft Highway System plan to reflect transportation priorities. These priorities form the core of WSDOT’s recommendation to the Legislature.
It proposes that new revenue for state highways over the next 20 years be dedicated first to adequately funding preservation and maintenance. It also recommends that remaining funds should be balanced between safety and efficiency strategies and highway expansion projects at a 2:1 ratio. These recommendations would provide a resilient state highway system that is sound, safe and smart:
How to comment on the draft Highway System Plan
People can provide feedback on the draft document which is available on WSDOT’s Highway System Plan website. The public comment period is open from Wednesday, Nov. 1 through 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18.
WSDOT Multimodal Planning and Data Division
310 Maple Park Ave. SE
Olympia, WA 98504-7370
Nov. 14 event gives community a chance to ask questions about upcoming paving, bridge projects
OMAK – Getting it done may not be a total walk in the park, but it will ultimately be a safe walk.
Two projects—one the construction of new multimodal facilities along a stretch of State Route 155 Spur and Omak Avenue; the other a bridge replacement project just blocks away—will be the focus of an upcoming open house scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the East Omak Elementary School library.
At the open house, the public will learn about plans to build a dedicated route for pedestrians and bicyclists that will make foot traffic to East Omak Elementary School safer, as well as provide the community a paved path to cross the nearby railroad tracks. More information, including a link to the online open house, is available on the project website. Construction is scheduled for the summer of 2026 during the school district’s summer break to reduce interference with school activities.
The second project presented at the open house is for the SR 155 Spur/Okanogan River Bridge replacement, currently scheduled for construction in 2027. This project will demolish the current, functionally obsolete bridge and replace it with a new bridge that will include designated multimodal access.
Community members will have a chance to meet the project teams, ask questions, share feedback and sign up for project updates.
SR 155 Omak area improvements open house
When: 3-6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14
Where: East Omak Elementary School, 715 Omak Ave., Omak, WA 98841
Details: The public is welcome to stop by anytime during the listed hours. WSDOT staff will be in attendance to answer the community’s questions. In addition, professional drawings and maps will help explain the size and scope of the projects. Se habla español.
Westbound rolling slowdowns planned for tree removal near summit of Snoqualmie Pass Oct. 31 through Nov. 1
HYAK – Rock blasting closures and rolling slowdowns are planned next week on Interstate 90 near Snoqualmie Pass and travelers need to plan for added travel time.
The Washington State Department of Transportation and contractor crews will close I-90 for approximately one hour at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31 and Wednesday, Nov. 1 for rock blasting. During the closures, eastbound travelers will be stopped at milepost 63 and westbound travelers will be stopped at exit 70 near Easton.
WSDOT maintenance crews will be removing trees along I-90 during the day Monday, Oct. 30 through Wednesday, Nov. 1. This work requires rolling slowdowns westbound at milepost 53, near the summit of Snoqualmie Pass and will cause minor delays for travelers.
Studded tires allowed in Washington from Nov. 1 to March 31; stud-free winter tire alternatives are legal year-round
OLYMPIA – All right stop, collaborate (with fellow travelers) and listen: because winter’s on its way with some snow and icy conditions. There’s nothing vanilla about how road crews prep for winter weather – including pre-treating and plowing – but the traveling public also can help by being prepared for changing driving conditions. And with or without a ’90s music playlist, the Washington State Department of Transportation has tips on how stay safe and keep everyone moving this wintertime.
“Many mountain pass closures, for example, are due to driver behavior, including going too fast for winter weather, inattentiveness or failing to have proper equipment like chains,” said WSDOT Maintenance Operations Manager James Morin. “We need everyone doing their part to help keep passes and roadways open and traffic moving. That includes planning their trips accordingly for weather and possible closures and staying up-to-date using WSDOT’s online tools.”
Check out WSDOT's winter driving web page for more tips and information. WSDOT also asks travelers to always "know before you go" and get the most up-to-date roadway information before heading out. I t’s also important for motorists to remember to slow down, increase their following distance and be alert for people using crosswalks or bike lanes, as they may be harder to see due to inclement weather.
Know before you go:
Winter preparations and improved staffing levels
Winter-specific training for highway maintenance workers is underway across the state as teams ramp up and begin staffing crews around-the-clock for winter storms. Staffing levels for the positions most directly involved in snow and ice work have improved since last winter thanks to ongoing recruitment and many maintenance teams have returned to pre-pandemic staffing. As in years past, crews will “swarm to the storm” and move available resources to most affected areas or priority routes during storms.
Despite increased hires, the national shortage of applicants with commercial driver’s licenses remains an issue for WSDOT and all state DOTs, and some shortages do remain in certain areas. WSDOT remains committed to recruitment and retention of road workers with CDLs, including paying for specialized training as well as the mechanics who keep trucks, plows and other equipment working. Visit www.wsdotjobs.com and search “highway maintenance worker” in the field bar for more information on permanent and seasonal openings.
Studded tires and other options
By law , studded tires are legal for use in Washington state only from Nov. 1 through March 31. This applies to all vehicles in Washington, even those traveling from other states, and no personal exemptions or waivers exist. Studded tires do not meet a posted chain requirement. Drivers still need to install chains over studded tires to proceed in areas posted for chains.
WSDOT estimates studded tires cause between $20 million and $29 million in pavement damage to state-owned asphalt and concrete roadways each year. Motorists are encouraged to visit a tire dealer to learn about options, including stud-free, winter tread traction tires. This aggressive tread tire is different than an all-season tire, is legal year-round and does not cause the same roadway damage as studded tires.
Chains and alternatives
All travelers are reminded to prepare for changing weather conditions and avoid a costly ticket by carrying chains or approved alternatives whenever crossing mountain passes. Failure to obey a tire chains sign can mean a ticket of up to $500. Special chain enforcement patrols by WSP will keep an eye on mountain passes this winter.
WSDOT also encourages travelers to practice installing chains before heading out to develop a familiarity before having to install in winter conditions. Any tire becomes a traction tire when chains are installed.
Although some vehicle manufacturers recommend against the use of tire chains for certain models, that doesn’t excuse travelers from state traction device laws. These requirements exist to help keep all traffic moving safely during extreme winter conditions. The Washington State Patrol provides a list of state-approved alternative traction devices on its vehicle equipment webpage under “traction tires.” These approved alternatives can be used when chains are required.
Hybrid in-person/virtual meeting takes place Oct. 17-18 in Olympia
OLYMPIA – The Oct. 17 and 18 meeting of the Washington State Transportation Commission in Olympia will include several presentations on the future of the state’s highway system. Topics include an expert panel discussing the implications of the growing backlog of road and bridge maintenance needs statewide as well as presentations about innovations for electrifying the trucking sector and supporting growing EV charging demands.
The public is welcome to attend the meeting, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the Washington State Department of Transportation Headquarters Building, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE. The meeting will also be streamed live on TVW. Those wishing to participate virtually may register for the Tuesday and Wednesday sessions on the commission’s website. Virtual and in-person public comment is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 18. Written comments can also be submitted via email to
A highlight of the meeting will be an expert panel on Tuesday that will address the widening funding shortfall for the maintenance and preservation of roads and bridges statewide, estimated at $11 billion over the next decade. Ramifications for falling behind in maintaining Washington’s $200 billion transportation system include threats to safety and reliability as well as escalating costs of moving goods on degraded roads and bridges. The panel discussion starts at 9 a.m.
Also Tuesday, commissioners will discuss potential changes to rates for the express toll lanes on Interstate 405 and State Route 167 that could take effect in early 2024. They will also begin discussions around possible toll policy changes for the I-405/SR 167 corridor that would be implemented when the next section of the express toll lane system, between Bellevue and Renton, is complete, which is planned for summer 2025.
Other topics to be covered at the meeting include:
Electrifying the trucking sector: Commissioners on Tuesday will hear from WattEV, a company working to transform the heavy-duty transportation sector by creating truck charging infrastructure and expanding a fleet of electric heavy-duty vehicles.
Adding electric infrastructure to roadways: Also on Tuesday, the commission will hear from NextGen Highways, which advocates for building electric transmission lines in public right of way corridors to meet demand from the increasing number of electric cars and buildings.
Highway renaming: The commission on Wednesday will consider a request from the Legislature to rename State Route 411 the “Cowlitz County Deputy Sheriff Justin DeRosier Memorial Highway” in honor of the deputy, who was fatally shot while on duty in April 2019 in Kalama.
HYAK – The Washington State Department of Transportation and contractor crews will close I-90 for approximately one hour starting at 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3 and Thursday, Oct. 5. During rock blasting closures, eastbound travelers will be stopped at milepost 63 and westbound travelers will be stopped at exit 70 near Easton.
Rock blasting is scheduled to occur one to two times per week into the fall, one hour before sunset, and the closure will last up to one hour. This work is part of the major improvement project to widen I-90 from four to six lanes between the Cabin Creek interchange and the West Easton interchange.
WSDOT provides a variety of tools to help plan your trip over Snoqualmie Pass this summer:
HYAK – The Washington State Department of Transportation and contractor crews will close I-90 for approximately one hour at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 26 and Thursday, Sept. 28. During rock blasting closures, eastbound travelers will be stopped at milepost 63 and westbound travelers will be stopped at exit 70 near Easton.
Rock blasting is scheduled to occur one to two times per week throughout the rest of summer and into the fall, one hour before sunset, and the closure will last up to one hour. This work is part of the major improvement project to widen I-90 from four to six lanes between the Cabin Creek interchange and the West Easton interchange.
WSDOT provides a variety of tools to help plan your trip over Snoqualmie Pass this summer:
OLYMPIA – Travelers in Washington logged a lot of miles on state highways in 2022. A heck of a lot.
Vehicle miles traveled by drivers in 2022 may have increased a modest 1.2 percent from 2021, but there is nothing modest about the 34.2 billion miles traveled, more than enough for 182 trips to the sun and back.
Annual performance data like this and five-year trends for numerous travel modes on select state-owned roadways are available in WSDOT’s recently released 2023 Multimodal Mobility Dashboard. The dashboard provides quick access to information about the state's most-traveled corridors, examining how congestion and corresponding mitigation strategies like incident response and HOV lanes affect travel.
The dashboard analyzes travel by car, public transit, passenger rail, ferry, airplane, walking, and biking, as well as multimodal freight mobility. These strategies and modes work together to help improve the movement of people and goods on Washington state's multimodal transportation system.
Some of the highlights from the Multimodal Mobility Dashboard:
To learn more about WSDOT's Multimodal Mobility Dashboard, visit WSDOT's Congestion & multimodal mobility reports webpage.
WSDOT’s quarterly performance report, the Gray Notebook for the quarter ending June 2023, is now available in its interactive format. While numerous performance measures are reported throughout the GNB, highlights from this issue include: