Time to trade those sunglasses and sandals for ice scrapers and chains

OLYMPIA – As state highway crews shift into winter gear, they have a few words of advice for drivers: be prepared and slow down.

Those simple words of wisdom could be the difference between a long wait on the highway or more time for family and fun.

“The last thing we want to do is see a car in the ditch,” said Mike Krahenbuhl, maintenance supervisor on Interstate 90 at Hyak. “That usually means the driver was going too fast or had to avoid someone else going too fast.”

Krahenbuhl has spent more than 40 years clearing snow and ice from Washington’s roadways. He said it takes just one person driving too fast or forgetting to prepare their vehicle for cold weather to cause a chain-reaction collision.

And it’s not just in the mountains, said Monty Mills, snow and ice program manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“Prepare your car and prepare yourself for the conditions you will be driving into,” said Mills. “When the temperature drops, drivers all over the state need to be ready. We’re working to keep the highways open but need drivers’ help.”

Spent Labor Day weekend home? You weren’t the only one

OLYMPIA, Wash. - It could have been the rain, wind, economy or school calendar. Whatever the reason, the result was clear. There were fewer vehicles on the road in most places for Labor Day 2009.

WSDOT collects and provides data on its Web site on routes that typically see an increase in travel over holiday weekends to help drivers have the information they need to know before they go on holiday trips.

On I-90 across Snoqualmie Pass, WSDOT counted nearly 187,000 vehicles during the Labor Day weekend, a 9 percent decrease from Labor Day 2008.

Most areas in Washington showed a similar decrease, with traffic on US 2 over Stevens Pass even lower, with 29,900 vehicles on US 2 over Stevens Pass from Friday through Monday. That’s down 6,500 vehicles (or 22 percent) from 2008.

Traffic on I-5 near the U.S./Canadian border showed a small increase from 2008. WSDOT counted 129,700 vehicles on this stretch of highway from Friday through Monday, an increase of 3,400 vehicles (or 3 percent) from Labor Day weekend 2008.