Navigating northeast for holidays
A reader in Montgomery County sent me this question about holiday travels, and both he and I could use your advice:
We're driving to Maine, and our priority is getting there as quickly as possible. We've done this trip many times, but I've never been satisfied that we've taken the best route. Like everybody else, I hate the clogging before the Delaware toll booths. And while I-95 most of the way is the most direct route, we've encountered major delays in New York after crossing the George Washington Bridge.
We've tried avoiding Delaware and New York City by going through Pennsylvania on I-83/I-81/I-84 and staying on I-84 to the Massachusetts Turnpike, which does seem to be much more open but adds about 50 miles. We've also gotten around New York City by taking the Garden State Parkway to the New York Thruway (I-287) east across the Tappan Zee Bridge to I-84, but the Garden State has its own traffic headaches and also adds miles.
What haven't we thought of?
DG: Not much. I've tried all those routes and read commentary on them from many travelers over the year's that we've had these getaway discussions.
My readers share a loathing for the Delaware toll plaza, one of the worst bottlenecks on the East Coast and a chronic problem when traffic volume surges around the holidays. This fall, the congestion has been quite severe, because the Delaware Department of Transportation is using federal stimulus money to build highway speed E-ZPass lanes in the middle of the Newark Toll Plaza.
The project isn't scheduled to be done till next summer, but the lane closings that have made traffic extra difficult since September are scheduled to end temporarily on Nov. 17. So all the travel lanes will be open for Thanksgiving, and will stay open through New Year's weekend.
Still, there will be those holiday traffic volumes to deal with. Some northbound travelers like to bypass the toll plaza along this route: I-95 to Route 279 toward Newark, Del., then right onto Iron Hill Road, then left onto Chestnut Hill Road, then right onto Route 896 (South College Avenue), then back onto I-95.
Others say take Route 279 to Elkton Road, which becomes Route 2. Then go north about two miles, right on Route 4 (Christiana Parkway) for about a mile, then right again on College Avenue, with I-95 ahead.
Other travelers from the D.C. area go across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and take Route 301 north over the scenic Eastern Shore up to I-95 in Delaware, east of the toll plaza.
I like the route through Pennsylvania into New Jersey and New York on I-83/I-81/I-84, then on to I-91 in Connecticut and the Mass Pike. The Pennsylvania part is scenic and less congested than I-95, but you've got to watch the weather, because of the higher elevations. The Grid Spouse, however, agrees with my letter writer that the extra mileage is a turn-off.
The key thing is that there are no undiscovered shortcuts, so every holiday route is likely to be crowded, especially from Tuesday night through Wednesday night before Thanksgiving and then again on the Sunday afternoon return.
That said, is there any one of these routes you think works best, or an alternative we haven't discussed?
| November 10, 2010; 8:15 AM ET
Categories: Getaways | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, travel tips
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