Expect heavy traffic across Washington highways beginning Friday as people head out for Labor Day weekend and the last unofficial days of summer before many schools start.

Travelers should prepare for congestion on Interstate 90 and Interstate 5, and expect longer-than-usual wait times at ferry docks and the border crossing between the United States and Canada, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

WSDOT is pausing construction work on I-90 to ease congestion. And crews wrapped up resurfacing and expansion-joint work on the Highway 99 Aurora Bridge last weekend.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, Kemper Development Co., NHL Seattle, PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company and Seattle Children’s hospital. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

On I-90 between North Bend and Cle Elum, traffic will be heaviest on Friday in the eastbound direction and Monday in the westbound direction. Here are the travel times to avoid on I-90, according to WSDOT:

  • Friday, eastbound, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, eastbound, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, westbound, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Monday, westbound, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On U.S. Highway 2 between Stevens Pass and Leavenworth, travelers can expect moderate to heavy traffic during most of the day Friday in the eastbound direction and Monday in the westbound direction. Congestion will be concentrated in the mornings on Saturday and Sunday in the eastbound direction and toward the later afternoon and evening in the westbound direction.

On I-5 between Tacoma and Olympia, drivers should expect heavy congestion in both the northbound and southbound directions between Friday and Monday. Here’s when you’ll especially want to try to stay off the highway:

  • Friday, northbound, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Friday, southbound, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, northbound, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, southbound, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Sunday, northbound, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, southbound, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Monday, northbound, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Monday, southbound, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On I-5 near the U.S. border, traffic will be thick between Bellingham and Canada. Here’s when traffic will be worst:

  • Friday, northbound, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Friday, southbound, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, northbound, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, southbound, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, northbound, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, southbound, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Monday, northbound, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Monday, southbound, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Public transit in Seattle will operate on modified schedules on the holiday.

Sound Transit’s Sounder trains will not operate on Labor Day. Express buses, Link light rail and Tacoma Link will operate on Sunday schedules.

King County Metro will also operate on a Sunday bus schedule on Labor Day.

On Saturday, Metro will provide additional bus service on routes 44, 65, and 75, to transport fans to Husky Stadium for the first University of Washington football game of the season. Kickoff is at noon.

Fans can also take nonstop Metro shuttle service to Husky Stadium from the park-and-ride lots at Eastgate, Houghton, Kingsgate and South Kirkland on the Eastside, and Redondo Heights in Federal Way. Round-trip passes, which may be purchased at the park-and-ride lots, cost $15 per person. ORCA cards and transfer passes are not accepted.


Transit riders can sign up for Sound Transit service alerts at soundtransit.org/schedule/rider-alerts. To sign up for Metro’s alerts, go to kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/metro/alerts-updates.

WSDOT says 500,000 people are expected to board a state ferry between Thursday and Tuesday, and travelers driving onto the ferries can expect lengthy wait times. WSDOT recommends reservations for ferry service between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands, Anacortes and Sidney, British Columbia, and Port Townsend and Coupeville.

Ferry reservations can be made at wsdot.wa.gov/ferries or by calling 888-808-7977.