Seattle Area 4th Of July Traffic: The Worst Time To Leave

The July 4 holiday is Thursday. Here's when to avoid driving around Puget Sound.

By Neal McNamara , Patch Staff | Courtesy of

Avoid the post-Seattle fireworks traffic by not driving at around 11 p.m. on July 4. (Patch file photo/Neal McNamara)

Avoid the post-Seattle fireworks traffic by not driving at around 11 p.m. on July 4. (Patch file photo/Neal McNamara)

SEATTLE, WA — July 4 is Thursday and Puget Sound residents are already making plans to head out of town. If that includes you, know that this year you'll be joined by more Americans than ever, according to a new report by the American Automobile Association, better known as AAA.

The motor club federation estimated that nearly 49 million Americans across the country plan to celebrate the nation's 243rd birthday this year with a getaway trip.

And if you're staying in Puget Sound this week, you'll need to be aware of other delays you'll find on the July 4 holiday itself.

AAA expects travel volume overall to increase more than 4 percent compared to 2018, with 1.9 million more people taking a road trip or other type of vacation. That includes a record-high 41.4 million Americans who will be on the road, according to the analytics company INRIX. The company predicted drivers in major metro areas could see delays as much as four times as high as their normal commute. Wednesday is expected to be the worst day on the roads for the country as a whole.

That not true for the Seattle area, however. Here's what AAA expects for the local area:

  • Worst day for travel: July 4

  • Worst time to travel: noon to 2 p.m.

  • Delay multiplier: 3X

On top of that, there are many big local fireworks shows going on Thursday that will impede traffic all day. The main event in the region is the Seafair Summer 4th festival, which lasts all day around the South Lake Union neighborhood. 

Fireworks kick off at 10:15 p.m. and will last until around 11 p.m. That means you'll see a mass exodus of revelers leaving downtown Seattle at that time. Your best bet is to use public transportation. The South Lake Union streetcar can get you from Lake Union to Westlake (and to light rail and buses).

Even if you don't venture into Seattle, there will be big fireworks shows in downtown Bellevue, Renton (at Gene Coulon Memorial Park), and Kirkland. There will also be a big show at Lake Sammamish State Park just off I-90 in Issaquah. All these shows start around 10 p.m.

Lower gas prices and a strong economy are part of the reason more drivers are expected to be on the road this year, AAA said in a news release. The national average for gas prices was at $2.66, 19 cents cheaper than 2018, and that number was expected to drop further into the summer.

"As Independence Day approaches, it's time for the much loved family road trip and this year will be one for the record books, with more Americans than ever planning vacations," said Paula Twidale, vice president at AAA Travel. "This holiday builds on the strong travel demand seen for Memorial Day, and with schools now out of session across the country, families coast to coast are eager to travel."

Patch national staffer Dan Hampton contributed to this report.