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Old 06-25-2010, 10:09 AM   #1
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Route through Seattle

We are on our way to Alaska and had to drive through Seattle on I-5. Of course traffic was a mess. The lanes were narrow and cars and trucks were everywhere. Is I-405 a better route or is it just as bad? Should we take it on our way back or just stick with I-5?
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Old 06-25-2010, 10:25 AM   #2
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I would stay on I5. If you had a crystal ball you might find times when 405 would be better but greneraly speaking I would use I5. The best time to get through Seattle is between 10AM and 2PM or after 7PM or on the weekends. During commute times is BAD.
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:09 PM   #3
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If you want wider lanes than 405 is the way to go. Either route is going to be busy. You also might encounter fewer trucks on 405 (those that don;t have to go to the port)
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Old 06-25-2010, 04:25 PM   #4
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It depends on the time of day. Coming into Seattle it's the worst between 06:00 and 08:30 as far as Seattle. Once your through the city, then you're going opposite way to most other traffic and it's not too bad. Going away from Seattle, it's the worst between 15:00 and about 18:00.

An alternative route we use quite a lot (we live in Anacortes and have family in Olympia) is to use 512, 167 and 405 going north. Outside the morning rush hour, 167 and 405 are less congested northbound than I-5. Late afternoon none of them are good!

One thing to remember is the I-5 express lane turn-about timing. From memory, I think they're southbound from about 01:00 to 12:00 on weekdays, then the State Patrol goes through and clears out any stranded vehicles. The lanes switch to northbound at 13:00 until midnight. They normally remain northbound from 13:00 Friday through to 01:00 Monday.

It gets really messy approaching downtown from the south before noon, as the left-most lane is closed off when the express lanes are southbound and the one next to it is an exit-only.

If time isn't critical and you'd like to try more rural roads, then here's a suggestion for Southbound. South of Stanwood on I-5, take exit 208 towards Arlington on highway 530. on the west side of Arlington, take highway 9 south towards Snohomish and Woodinville. On the SE side of Snoihomish, take highway 2 east for a short distance then take 203 south towards Fall City. Cut off towards Preston just before you get to Snoqualmie. Take 90 east to 18, then 18 west to 167 and 167 south to 512 west to I-5 near Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It will take longer than even the most congested tim on I-5, but it's sure a pretty drive.


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Old 06-25-2010, 06:21 PM   #5
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We did plan our northbound trip so that we hit Seattle just before 11:00 am so I know traffic would have been a lot worse if we had hit it earlier. Having said that it still was not a lot of fun...
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Old 06-26-2010, 11:18 AM   #6
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When you say you need to go through Seattle where are you headed? Over the years we have developed many ways to deal with Seattle traffic. Are you going to want a best time route or a least traffic route? Were you looking to head east on 90? We have been known to take the ferry to Pt Townsend just to avoid the whole mess. How about crossing at Osoyous and going south that way and picking up 97? There are many possiblities.

To answer your question, stay on 5 on weekdays between 10 am and 2 pm. Look at the sign that gives times just before the 405 turn off south of Everett. If there is 15 min or less difference, stay on 5 unless heading east on 90. Saturdays before noon either one. I would lean toward I 5 . Sunday before noon, either again. Weekends 405 seems to have more local traffic and I 5 has event traffic.

Get yourself in the second from the right lane and follow a semi as they change lanes. There is a rest area at Smoky Point north of Seattle. I would wait out rush hour (8 am to 10 am there). Maybe have breakfast at the casino at Tulalip (Marysville). They have free rv parking there.

On another note. We were recently in DC on a tour bus and I asked the driver about traffic in DC. He said that the DC area has the second most wasted time in traffic in the country. I said don't tell me Seattle is number one. Yep, he said.

Good luck and remember either route as long as you are moving you are making progress.
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Old 06-26-2010, 02:15 PM   #7
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I hate going through metopolitan areas and wouldn't even consider I-5 (the last time we drove I-5 through Seattle, we got rear ended). Although traffic may not be a lot lighter, I'd take I-405. Actually, I like Frank Damp's suggestion of back roads rather than either I-5 or I-405...if time isn't critical for you.

You don't say where you're headed on your trip back south, but depending on your final destination, you might want to consider crossing the border back into the U.S. somewhere on the eastern side of the Cascades and avoid traveling through Seattle entirely.
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Old 06-26-2010, 06:12 PM   #8
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Be cautious with the Port Townsend ferry. The older boats on that route were suddenly withdrawn from service about 18 months ago. They were early 1900s built ans started to develop hull leaks due to corrosion.

Currently there's only one boat running instead of two and it's not very big. Reservations are required. It's more sensitive to the big swells in the Strait and service can be cancelled at quite short notice. It's also a predominantly open-deck boat where the vehicles go, so there's more risk of green water over the car deck.

It also has a bigger problem with vehicle loading when the tide is low because of a steep ramp angle and a nasty transition from ramp to deck. It seems to get cancelled much more often for tide reasons than the previous boats did.

A brand new replacement should be on the route by early next year with a second one coming along about 9 months later.


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