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May 24, 2013 at 11:22 AM

How to avoid the travel snarls after I-5 bridge collapse

The collapsed bridge on Interstate-5 at Mount Vernon that's snarling travel in Western Washington. (Mike Siegel photo / The Seattle Times)

The collapsed bridge on Interstate-5 at Mount Vernon that’s snarling travel in Western Washington. (Mike Siegel photo / The Seattle Times)

If you’re trying to get from the Seattle area to the San Juan Islands or other places  in Northwest Washington or British Columbia, you’ll need to find a way to get around the closure of Interstate-5 in both directions at Mount Vernon because of the bridge collapse.  

 Signposted detours are taking drivers off I-5  – here’s an official map  of the southbound and northbound detours (and phone 511 for traffic updates or  get a mobile state  traffic app).   But be ready for   long delays on the  detour routes right  in Mount Vernon.  So get creative, either by driving different roads or taking alternate transport.   Some suggestions:

  If you’re heading for the ferries to the San Juan Islands or Victoria, B.C, and need to get to the Anacortes ferry terminal, get off I-5 farther south. Take exit 221, bound for Conway, and then work your way northward through Fir Island and the La Conner area to Anacortes.

   If you’re going north to Bellingham or Vancouver, B.C., Highway 9, which runs parallel to I-5 on the east, is the most direct option and you can exit onto it whenever I-5 gets backed up (before the officially signposted detour near Mount Vernon).  But it can be slow at the best of times, with lots of local traffic.

   If you’re heading for the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20), get off I-5 near Arlington (exit 208) and take Highway 530 east  to Darrington; it then leads north to Rockport on Highway 20.  Normally it’s a sparsely-traveled country road but it’s going to be busier, thanks to the bridge collapse. The Darrington route also can be used as a long, long  loop to get around Mount Vernon.

    If you’re headed to Vancouver Island and don’t want to deal with getting to Anacortes for the Washington State ferry that travel there, instead take  the Black Ball car ferry from Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula  to downtown Victoria, B.C. (reservations can be made).

 Take the train, plane, boat

Leave your car at home to avoid the whole mess.

Amtrak has two round-trip  trains a day between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. with stops at Bellingham and other Washington cities along the way.  One train leaves Seattle at 7.40 a.m. daily, the other at 6.50 p.m.  Make your reservation quickly as the train will be popular; just be sure not to book the buses that Amtrak also runs several times a day  since they’ll be stuck in traffic with everyone else.

The Victoria Clipper passenger-only high-speed ferries has several round-trips daily between  Seattle and  Victoria, B.C. and also a daily round trip  to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island

Kenmore Air  has daily  float-plane flights from Seattle  to  Victoria, B.C., and daily flights to San Juan Island, Orcas and  Lopez islands on both floats planes and wheeled aircraft (to Friday Harbor from Boeing Field). Float planes leave from Seattle’s Lake Union or Lake Washington at Kenmore.

Scheduled flights go from Sea-Tac Airport to the Vancouver International Airport, including on Horizon/Alaska Airlines and Air Canada.

Comments | More in Northwest | Topics: Bridge collapse, I-5 closure, I-5 detour

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