The Memorial Day weekend travel period got off to a quick start on Thursday with something very predictable – backups on Interstate 90 in downtown Spokane and near Cle Elum.
When drivers encounter heavy traffic this weekend, they can be warmed to know that summerlike weather will prevail on both sides of the Cascades.
Forecasters are calling for highs in the 70s and 80s through Monday in Spokane and maybe even a few 90-degree readings in the Columbia Basin. The Seattle area may get into the lower 80s for highs.
More than 34 million Americans are expected to travel by vehicle a distance of more than 50 miles from home through Tuesday, an increase of 2.4 percent over 2016, according to AAA.
With air and rail travel included, more than 39 million Americans are going somewhere for the traditional kickoff to summer activities, the most travelers since 2005.
The state of Washington has asked its contractors to reopen lanes closed for construction to make room for a heavier load of traffic through Monday.
In Spokane, eastbound I-90 near Arthur Street will be reopened to three through lanes about noon on Friday, said Al Gilson, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
The eastbound restrictions will return on Tuesday with the freeway narrowed to two through lanes.
An earlier plan to reduce the westbound side to two through lanes starting Tuesday has been postponed until mid-June, he said.
The Keller Ferry was put out of service earlier this week due to problems at the north landing.
State Highway 20 is closed at Loup Loup Pass due to slides and washouts earlier this year.
The cross-Cascades traffic will be heaviest on the eastbound lanes at the start of the weekend as people escape the cities on the Interstate 5 corridor.
The heavy I-90 traffic will switch to the westbound lanes at the end of the weekend as people return to their homes in the Puget Sound basin.
Westbound traffic on Friday and Saturday should be moderate during the middle of the day. The return trip on the eastbound side will see moderate traffic on Sunday and Monday.
Lane restrictions on I-90 will be in place from North Bend to the Snoqualmie Pass summit.
The state has online travel charts for I-90 from Cle Elum to North Bend; Interstate 5 from Tacoma to Olympia and near the Canadian border; and U.S. Highway 2 from Leavenworth to Stevens Pass.
State officials said some travelers may be delayed by an hour due to heavy traffic.
The North Cascades Highway reopened on May 16.
Cayuse Pass near Mount Rainier is open.
In addition to the warm and sunny days this weekend, the nighttime temperatures should remain mild in the lower to middle 50s in Spokane. The summerlike weather should hold through Wednesday, forecasters said.
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