What’s the absolute best way to avoid Labor Day weekend congestion?

Leave Thursday and come back Tuesday, according to Washington State Department of Transportation spokesperson Tom Pearce.

Of course, that’s not possible for most, he acknowledged.

For those of us who have to work on Friday and be back home by Monday night, some traffic is almost inevitable.

Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest for travelers hoping to enjoy at least one more weekend of summer fun, according to the transportation department. The busiest times are expected Friday afternoon and evening for people leaving the Seattle area and much of the day Monday for those returning, Pearce said.

“Depending on where you are coming from, we expect to see it build by midday on Monday and last well into evening,” he said. For people with fewer travel time options, pack patience and expect some traffic.

All forms of travel, including trips in cars, planes and trains, are up 22% domestically over last year, according to AAA Washington’s public affairs manager Kelly Just. And for the coming weekend, Seattle is expected to be the number one travel destination nationwide, she said.


Seattle was the second most popular American destination over the Memorial Day and Independence Day holiday weekends, second only to Orlando, Just said.

The biggest impacts, according to WSDOT, are expected on I-90 and at the ferry docks.

WSDOT has charts on predicted travel impacts on I-5 between Lacey and Olympia, on I-90 between North Bend and Cle Elum and on Highway 2 between Stevens Pass and Skykomish. The charts are available at st.news/longweekendtraffic

If you’re traveling by ferry, remember some routes are operating with fewer vessels than usual, so be prepared to wait in line if traveling at peak times. Schedules are available at st.news/ferries

Unlike last weekend, when multiple lanes of I-5 and a portion of Highway 520 were closed for construction, there are no work projects planned for the Greater Seattle area this coming weekend, Pearce said. If you encounter collisions or emergency work zones along your path, slow down, he said.

“People will be out there working to fix things and clear the roads as quickly as possible,” he said, “and they need their space.”