Traffic

Thanksgiving travel briefing: What to avoid and when to avoid it

Rain.

Check.

Crowded highways.

Check.

Befuddled travelers at the airport.

Check.

Must be nearly Thanksgiving.

If you’re traveling farther than from the big screen to the big meal in the next few days, here are some things you might want to know:

TRAFFIC

The state Department of Transportation predicts backed-up highways as people travel for the holiday.

Typically, the busiest routes are Interstate 5 between Tacoma and Olympia, Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass, U.S. 2 from Leavenworth over Stevens Pass and I-5 from Bellingham to the Canadian border.

Backups are expected in the toll lanes of the eastbound Tacoma Narrows Bridge from 5-10 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Cayuse and Chinook passes are closed, as is the North Cascades Highway.

State Route 520 bridge will have weekend toll rates Thursday.

To help ease congestion, the Transportation Department is suspending all road construction projects at noon Wednesday (Nov. 26) through the weekend.

GAS PRICES

South Sound gasoline prices are near a 12-month low this week as drivers prepare for Thanksgiving trips.

TacomaGasPrices.com reported the average gas price in the Tacoma area Tuesday was $3.06 a gallon for unleaded regular.

That was 96 cents less per gallon than the average gas price during the Independence Day holiday last summer and 76 cents less than the average price on Labor Day in September.

Statewide, gas prices averaged about two cents more than in the Tacoma area. Overall averages in Spokane, the Tri-Cities and Vancouver were slightly below Tacoma averages.

Those traveling outside Washington will find all adjacent states have marginally lower average prices than the Evergreen State.

Even California, which historically is near the top of the chart for gasoline prices, has an average price this week of $3.07 a gallon, a penny lower than Washington state’s average.

Those flying to Hawaii for a sunny holiday break will find the nation’s highest gas prices — $3.90 a gallon on average. Those headed for Missouri will experience the country’s lowest gas costs — an average of $2.54 a gallon.

RAIL, FERRIES

With more people on the move, two additional Amtrak Cascades trains have been added between Seattle and Portland from Wednesday to Sunday. Get more information or make reservations at www.amtrakcascades.com or call 800-USA-RAIL.

Ferries also see an influx of travelers. The busiest times usually are westbound on Wednesday and eastbound on Friday. Check the holiday schedule by calling 888-808-7977.

Log on to wsdot.wa.gov/small with your mobile device to check out travel times, current traffic cameras, mountain pass reports and ferry schedules.

AIR TRAVEL

Contrary to popular belief, the Thanksgiving holidays aren’t the year’s peak travel days at Sea-Tac Airport.

Many days during June, July and August with the influx of cruise ship passengers and vacationers will top the 106,000 passengers the airport expects to handle Sunday, the busiest day during the Thanksgiving holiday period.

Nonetheless, Thanksgiving often brings more inexperienced or occasional travelers to the airport, Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper said.

He offered several insider suggestions for passengers traveling during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays:

• Consider using the departure or ticketing level drives to pick up your arriving friends and relatives when the arrival drives are jammed.



The departure level is a one-level escalator trip up from the baggage claim or arrival level. Consider doing the opposite in the morning, dropping passengers flying out on the arrivals level.

• Park in the airport garage to collect your guests. The Terminal Direct level charge is $4 an hour.



• Wait in the cellphone lot north of the airport for your guests to call that they’ve collected their luggage before picking them up. Waiting any significant length of time on the drives is illegal.



• Printing your boarding passes at home before arriving at the airport can save time waiting in line at the ticket counter. Some airlines also allow you to print baggage tags without going to the counter.



• Dress appropriately for security checks. Wear slip-on shoes. Put your keys, cellphones, jewelry, change and other objects in a clear plastic bag before you reach security so they can be scanned with your luggage.



•  Check your airline’s website to see if your flight is operating on schedule.



A major storm is due to hit the Mid-Atlantic and New England states Wednesday. The storm not only could delay flights headed from Sea-Tac to that part of the country, but also could cause problems for flights headed for other destinations when the plane scheduled to arrive from the East arrives at Sea-Tac late.

WEATHER

Heavy rain is expected to fall in Western Washington this week.

National Weather Service forecasters were predicting 2½-5 inches of rain in the Cascades by Wednesday with another 3-5 inches possible when another storm moves through Wednesday to Friday.

Most of the precipitation will fall as rain since the snow level was hovering around 7,000 feet, according to the Weather Service. The snow level could drop to 5,500 feet later in the week.

Temperatures will continue to drop this week, reaching the low 40s by Saturday.

There are no burn bans in effect in Pierce County.

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