Traffic officials say drivers should plan for busy roads if they're going to be among the projected 33 million Americans expected to hit the road for an end of summer celebration this Labor Day weekend.
Rising gas prices once again are not expected to get in the way of people's travel plans, according to AAA Travel, which estimated that the number of people traveling 50 miles or more from home over the holiday weekend is expected to reach a new post-recession high.
A 2.9 percent increase is expected over last year's 32.1 million travelers, AAA said.
The average price of a gallon of regular gas in the Tri-Cities is $3.91, up 5 cents from a week ago and 29 cents from a month ago, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report.
Statewide, the average price of gas is $4.03, 20 cents more than the national average of $3.83.
Drivers in the Columbia Basin looking to fill up for less will have to plan a trip to Spokane, which is the only area in the state with cheaper gas than the Tri-Cities. A gallon of regular gas in Spokane was $3.83 on Thursday.
To help ease traffic congestion, the Washington Department of Transportation has suspended most of its construction work -- except on Interstate 90 along Snoqualmie Pass and Highway 2 west of Stevens Pass.
Workers will be off the roads beginning today through Monday, DOT officials said.
Motorists also can get traffic alerts, ferry schedules, graphs with travel times and other information from DOT through its website, wsdot.wa.gov, or through DOT's traffic apps for those with smartphones.
"It's a popular weekend to travel; traffic is pretty much going to be busy any time you head out the door, but I find knowing what to expect in advance and/or where to find the traffic info makes traveling much easier," Mark Finch, manager of WSDOT's Statewide Travel Data Analysis Office, said in a news release.
Real-time travel information is also is available by calling 511 or 1-800-695-ROAD (7623) for out-of-state callers.
Tri-Citians heading to the west side via Snoqualmie Pass this weekend should find driving times to stay close to normal with moderate to heavy traffic expected on the road during the late morning through early evening today, Saturday and Sunday.
Those expecting weekend guests should tell friends and family to hit the road early to get over the pass before 10 a.m. today, otherwise they likely will be sitting in stop and go traffic until about 7 p.m., according to the DOT's traffic volume charts.
Stop and go traffic on Snoqualmie Pass also is expected for eastbound travelers between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday.
Travel also will be heavy Monday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. for drivers trying to get back to the west side.
As for staying safe while on the road, law enforcement officers will be out in force looking for impaired, aggressive or speeding drivers.
Oregon State Police say Labor Day weekend is the second-deadliest weekend on the road and troopers and officers across the state are participating in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign.
The extra enforcement begins at 6 p.m. today and runs through 11:59 p.m. Monday. OSP said it averages seven traffic fatalities over Labor Day weekend and never has had a fatality-free weekend, according to statistics compiled since 1970.
In the Tri-Cities and across Washington, officers will continue to take part in the annual Drive Hammered, Get Nailed enforcement campaign. The DUI emphasis patrols began Aug. 17 and continue through Monday.
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org