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Navigating from D.C. to Carolinas

Construction updates | Travel tips l Summer getaway routes

During my online chat Monday, a traveler asked about conditions to the south on Interstate 95, but a little too far out of my range. So I asked readers to help out with their advice. This was the full question:

Heading south: I am planning to drive to Charleston, S.C., next Sunday for work. I make trips down to the Carolinas two or three times a year, but this is the first time I've gone this far in one shot. On my past few trips to either North Carolina or the northern part of South Carolina, I've taken Route 29 through Virginia, which takes me down to Greensboro, and I was thinking of that route again this time (mostly to avoid I-95). My question for you and other chatters is, what is 29 like past Greensboro? Is it still a nice trip into South Carolina, or should I consider going to I-85 and I-77 once in North Carolina?

I got this helpful response.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
If it's not too late to get a word to the Charleston-bound traveler who was thinking of taking U.S. 29 to Greensboro, I'd like to weigh in. (I'm a South Carolina native living in Philly, so I go that way a lot.)

First, I-95 really isn't much of a problem south of Fredericksburg and particularly south of Petersburg, Va. You get a little congestion in central North Carolina between Wilson and Benson, but otherwise, even on summer Saturdays, traffic flows freely. So I-95 to I-26 is a good route.

Once you're in Greensboro, you've got two options -- I-85 to I-77 to I-26 (Charlotte-Columbia-Charleston) or taking Route 220 south to Rockingham and picking your way across South Carolina on two-lane roads. (Route 29 parallels I-85 southwest of Greensboro.)

I-85 is trafficky but generally free-flowing; I-77 is a breeze; I-26 is trafficky but generally free-flowing.

Route 220 south of Greensboro is an Interstate-quality road (it's even being signed as future Interstates 73 and 74) as far as Rockingham. Then you have two choices:

You can take U.S. 1 to Camden and either pick up I-20 to Columbia and then to I-26, or pick up two-lane U.S. 601 to I-26 at Orangeburg; that road is mostly desolate two-lane road with a few towns sprinkled in.

Or you can pick up U.S. 52 to Florence and either pick up I-95 there or stay on 52 all the way to Charleston. It's mostly four lanes, but hardly Interstate-caliber.

I'd stick with I-95 and take my lumps in Northern Virginia, but next best is taking the Charlotte route. A third possibility is I-66 west to I-81 south to I-77 south to I-26 east.
-- John Braun

By Robert Thomson  | August 18, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Driving, Getaways  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, travel tips  
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Comments

I did this drive just last weekend - and it was easy. Stayed the traditional 95 and 26, but made sure to leave before Beltway/95 rush hour (left Rockville around 4:45 AM). Drive took 9 hours but included a nice leisurely, 45 minute breakfast. Helps that my wife likes to split the driving.

I've taken 40 to Wilmington to 17 which goes along the coast. Fun drive, but when 95 is clear you can easily (and cautiously) go over 80 most of the way.

Posted by: Kev29 | August 18, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I've done this drive, as have a couple friends living in CHS.

No doubt, take 95 to 26. It is by far the straightest shot, and even if you run into traffic on 95, the trip will still be shorter than heading all the wya over to Greensboro or Charlotte.

95 is fine once you get past Fredericksburg, just try to get a feel for traffic in Richmond so you can take the loop around if you need to avoid traffic in downtown Richmond. After that, it is smooth sailing.

Posted by: DCMike1 | August 18, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

95 really is a piece of cake everywhere I've driven it north of Orlando and south of Richmond. It's in NoVA that it gives you real trouble, but once you go south and hit those stretches where the speed limit is 70 and the road's not crowded, you just go go go.

Posted by: EtoilePB | August 18, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

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