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Posted at 4:55 PM ET, 11/24/2010

Delaware waives northbound tolls

By Michael D. Bolden

Check Newark Toll Plaza

7:40 p.m. Update: Traffic continues to flow unabated through the toll plaza, with slowdowns beginning near the Elkton Road interchange.

5:55 p.m. Update: Traffic continues to flow steadily but slowly through the Newark Toll Plaza. Northbound tolls are waived until 11 p.m. Wednesday.

5:15 p.m. Update: Traffic cameras show a steady stream of northbound headlights. Delaware is still reporting congestion leading to the plaza, with an average speed dropping to as low as 11 mph.

4:45 p.m. Update: The Delaware Department of Transportation waived tolls on the northbound Delaware Turnpike Wednesday afternoon in an attempt to ease congestion through the Newark Toll Plaza. The unusual move came as officials tried to balance the volume of traffic on Interstate 95 with limitations imposed by construction at the toll plaza. Delays at one point Wednesday afternoon extended more than five miles.

Northbound cars normally pay $4 but they will be permitted to pass through for free until 11 Wednesday night.

3:45 p.m. Update: Delays appear to be easing, although congestion still extends for at least a couple of miles approaching the toll plaza. The Delaware Department of Transportation says delays may ease after 5 p.m. today. Here is a chart of peak times. (PDF)

3:15 p.m. Update: Delays are estimated to be about 30 minutes.

3 p.m. Update: The best thing we can say about 95 through Delaware is that it doesn't appear to be getting any worse. The slowdown still stretches about seven miles, speeds vary from 30 to to less than 15 mph. After the toll plaza, speeds improve dramatically, with average speeds around 65 mph.

1:18 p.m. Update: Traffic now slows as far west as Route 545 in Maryland, moving about 27 mph.

12:20 p.m. Update: Drivers headed north on Interstate 95 approaching the Newark Toll Plaza in Delaware face major delays as more Thanksgiving travelers hit the roads.

The day dawned with people breezing through the infamous choke point, but by midday delays were stretching about seven miles, according to information from the Delaware Department of Transportation.

At Route 213 in Maryland traffic was moving about 40 mph. Closer to the toll plaza it was down to 15.

State officials warned in the days leading up to the holiday that delays may last hours and backups stretch for miles approaching the plaza. The Delaware Department of Transportation is building highway-speed E-ZPass lanes in the middle of the Newark Toll Plaza and construction is constricting traffic flow.

Perhaps the most grim predictor of how bad the traffic might get is that Delaware, which charges $4 each way for cars and depends on the flow of revenue, was warning drivers to take alternate routes.

Drivers who make it through the toll plaza aren't home free, either. A tractor-trailer overturned on I-95 South in Wilmington. I-95 North has been closed to allow access to the accident scene for emergency vehicles.

The accident is on the Brandywine River Bridge, and cameras show traffic at a standstill.

Dr. Gridlock suggests alternatives

Have a suggestion? Post a comment below.

11:20 am. Update: The Delaware Department of Transportation is now characterizing the Newark toll Plaza delays as major. Traffic is traveling at less than 15 mph.

10:55 a.m. Update: The Newark Toll Plaza, which has been free of delays for much of the morning, is showing signs of congestion. The average speed approaching the plaza has dropped to 20 mph. Cameras show slow-moving lines of vehicles.

8:55 a.m. Update: The Delaware Turnpike still looks good, although volume is increasing. The average speed is about 67 miles per hour.

Original post: I-95 North at the Newark Toll Plaza in Delaware looks great now. There are no delays moving through the stretch, according to the Delaware Department of Transportation. Traffic cameras show vehicles moving smoothly north and south.

However, that's predicted to change as the day goes on and more people hit the roads. Delaware officials are expecting congestion for miles and massive delays, with the best travel time being before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

if you're not leaving now, here's a guide from Dr. Gridlock on steering around the mess.

Thanksgiving's biggest bottleneck

Have you already made it through or do you have an alternate plan? Post a comment below.

By Michael D. Bolden  | November 24, 2010; 4:55 PM ET
Categories:  Driving  
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The problem on I-95 in Wilmington would seem, at first blush, not to have a direct effect on most Thanksgiving drivers because the majority of the traffic exits onto I-295 to go over the Delaware Memorial Bridge into New Jersey. But if the road closure causes a backup of people commuting or heading towards Philadelphia, it would almost certainly cascade back onto the Delaware Turnpike portion of I-95. I guess that's the real question that you might want to cover in any updates--how far back down the northbound carriageway are the delays extending? It's easy enough to avoid I-95 through Wilmington by taking I-495 (which is a better and faster road anyway), but if the traffic backs up into what the guys at call the "Megachange" (the sprawling triangular junction of I-95, I-295, I-495, and DE-141), then it becomes a whole different situation.

Posted by: 1995hoo | November 24, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

If the good folks in Delaware had any class, they'd stop charging tolls for the duration. Considering the service their "customers" are getting, it seems only fair.

Posted by: kevinwparker | November 24, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Biden is from Delaware, so stop dreaming.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 29, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

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