For those who have done this route, how long does it normally take for you? Google map indicates it can be done around 5 hours. But I assume it doesn't factor in the border crossing wait right? Also in addition to potential rush hour at both cities, is there any particular stretches of the route that is subject to frequent gridlocks as well? Is this route a scenic one? Arethere any beautiful sights along the way worth stopping briefly for a couple of photo shots?
Five hours is about right, Seattle unitl around 10am going North, instead of going into Seattle take 405 at South Center and go on the east side of the lake. If there are two of you in the car you can use the HOV lane. From Seattle to Vancouver not an awful lot of beauty, some rolling hills and between Mt Vernon and Bellingham you do move up into the hills somewhat. The border can be "ify" there are two choices, the Pacific truck crossing which caters to trucks and buses and cars, trucks and buses do have their own lanes and Peace Arch just to the West of it, Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday can be a pain, having said that due to the new ID regulations, passports etc. for travel, travel is down somewhat so you might breeze through. From the border to Vancouver is about 30 to 45 minutes. Don't forget are speed limit is in KM per hour. All in all not a bad trip. oh yes, and be careful for the radar traps in Washington State they can be anywhere, Olympia to Seattle is a really bad area for them and the WSP will give you a ticket, no ifs and or buts about it.
5-6 hours is about right if you avoid rush hour. The border crossing can add a lot of time; the worst wait I ever experienced was 3 1/2 hours, but this is not usual. Nothing particularly scenic about the drive (except Seattle), I'm afraid.
The traffic through and around Seattle can be very bad. Stop 'n go northbound pretty much all the way through Everett for the PM rush hour, and even heavy beyond, even at 7 pm or later. I imagine the morning northbound rush hour between Olympia/Tacoma and Seattle is pretty bad too. The stretch between Olympia and the Columbia river can be slow as there's only 2 lanes quite a bit of the way and you do get drivers who insist in driving in formation on all lanes under the speed limit.
If you have 2 persons in the car and headed through Seattle northbound after midday, I'd take I-5 as the (reversible) express lanes (separate roadway from the rest of I-5) make for faster travelling than I-405. Otherwise the 2 lanes through Seattle on the normal lanes can clog up traffic.
What's been said about the border is pretty much right. Best time to cross, IMHO, is after 11pm (I get from the SEA parking lot to the middle of the City of Vancouver in 2.5-3 hrs leaving at 9-11p). I'd say if you leave Portland at 7p but before 3-4a, it'd take 5 hours but longer otherwise. You could leave Portland around 9-10 and avoid most of the bad congestion but the border waits then could be anything when you cross in the afternoon.
We've driven back from the Oregon coast twice, once via Portland after visiting Woodburn. Pretty draining drive IMO. Have to agree that there isn't many scenic places to stop along the way. The only things I occasionally try to get the wife to take a picture of while driving is the Tacoma Dome (at least that's what I think it is), Qwest field, and Safeco.
Apart from Seattle, I suppose you can also make pit stops at Seattle Premium Outlets (Marysville ~ halfway btw Seattle & Vancouver) or Bellis Fair Mall (Bellingham).
I don't know if I'm blind but I seem to miss the express lanes about half the time.
Originally Posted by sfo
<snip> be careful for the radar traps in Washington State they can be anywhere, Olympia to Seattle is a really bad area for them and the WSP will give you a ticket, no ifs and or buts about it.
Yeah, I think there's quite a bit of speed enforcement on the I5; not just radar but cops pacing vehicles.
A few years back, we were driving back from SEA after flying back from Hawaii and we were nailed near Everett I think. However, my friend acknowledged she was speeding, apologized, & was just generally civil and got out of it with just a warning.