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How Long to OC?

I got a question from a reader in Falls Church, and I thought I'd turn to you travelers for some guidance:

"I have not driven to Ocean City , Md. , during the summer months in about 10 years. However, we will be going there on Saturday, Aug. 26. What's the traffic like these days heading toward the Bay Bridge and ultimately going to OC? How early will we need to leave? Thanks."

First thing I asked was if she had an E-ZPass for the bridge, and she does. I know that motorists can call 1-877-BAYSPAN for up to date information on traffic at the bridge. I know there's plenty of traffic information on Maryland's CHART Web site and that you can check the traffic cameras before you go at, and that includes a view of the bridge toll plaza.

But I haven't heard much about getaway traffic to the Eastern Shore since Memorial Day. Google Maps says the 146 mile trip from Falls Church to Ocean City should take three hours and 48 minutes, but I think Google's route is way too complicated. Don't you think I should just say Beltway to Route 50?

Anyone able to advise on this?

By Robert Thomson  |  August 16, 2006; 5:06 AM ET
Categories:  Getaway  
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I'd aim to be at the bridge no later than 10 or 10:30. Took the family down to Bethany in July, made it to the bridge at 9ish. No traffic there, but started to hit some about 30 minutes outside the beaches. Not exactly OC, but close, and I'm sure it's the same if not worse there. Then again, the next Saturday was the big accident on the bridge at 8, I guess you can never be safe. I'd definitely aim for as early as you can get there though, I'd rather be in OC all day and have no traffic than be sitting in traffic all day because I wanted an extra hour or two of sleep.

Posted by: Springfield | August 16, 2006 4:40 PM | Report abuse

There's no planning when it comes to the bridge. We decided to take an extra day at the Jersey shore so that we wouldn't have to deal with the return traffic Sunday night on the bridge. When we got to the bridge sometime after 9 pm on Monday, there was an at least 2 hour delay because of repair work on the bridge--traffic had been narrowed from 3 lanes to one and then, of course, each car had to pause to gawk at the repair work. It was a nightmare.

Posted by: Bethesda | August 16, 2006 4:57 PM | Report abuse

We went to OC from Sterling on Sunday 7/23. Zero traffic. Trip time: 3-1/2 hours, no stops. We drove back on Saturday 7/29 (left OC at 8 a.m. arrived Sterling 11:45 -- with a breakfast stop!) and had very little traffic heading back to the bridge. However, incoming traffic (from DC) was backed up once you were over the bridge until the split with 404 (must have been an accident on the way to the DE shore). Thoughts: go super early or super late. And don't get me started on google, mapquest, et al. They are not from these parts. Take the beltway to 50 (not via the WW bridge though!)

Posted by: Arlington | August 16, 2006 5:07 PM | Report abuse

First, Rt. 50 is much improved in the past 10 years. The best route is definately, beltway to Rt. 50. If you must avoid traffic, then get to the toll plaza before 3:00 pm or after 8:00 pm. We usually after I get off work around 6:00 pm and rarely have (bad) traffic issues.

Posted by: Down The Ocean | August 16, 2006 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Join a flight club at one of the local general aviation airports, and learn to fly. It takes us just a shade over an hour to Ocean City. :)

Posted by: Joe | August 17, 2006 2:07 AM | Report abuse

I was born and raised in Maryland, so it's not unusual for me to have spent more time in OC over the summer than at home. Saturday mornings are USUALLY pretty light traffic days.

However, I would bet that traffic will be heavier on the 26th since there will be a lot of folks driving down for the week and staying for Labor Day weekend. Its best to start as early as possible (be on the road by 8 am to be on the safe side, get to the bridge by 9am). In my experience, things start to get ugly by 10 am.

Don't do anything too complicated in terms of directions. The beltway to 50 works great. Watch out for speed traps all along 50. I'd bet my life on the troopers being out in full force. Watch out when the speed limit slows down to 35 or 45 when you hit a city. The Easton police will be waiting for people trying to make good time.

Whether its this trip or the next one, avoid driving down or back on Sundays. Property rentals are usually Sunday to Sunday, so it can be a big travel day. On the other hand, if you are coming back after Labor Day, Monday is going to stink too.

Posted by: Beach Bum | August 17, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

We normally leave Fairfax around 7pm, and arrive around 10 or 10:30 (it's easier for us that way b/c our small children sleep most of the trip). Straight shot once you are on Rt. 50. One new thing that is really great is the bypass around Salsbury. That's a major timesaver that has only been around for a few years.

However....the way back can be a bear. We hit consistent backups at the meeting of Rt. 50 and 404 (where the DE Beach traffic comes in). This past Sunday, at about 9:30 at night, it was backed up for over 45 minutes. Other than that, no traffic to be had anywhere.

Posted by: Drive Home | August 17, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

If your journey ends in mid-town to northern OC, consider taking Rte. 90 instead of US 50 from about 10 miles east of Salisbury. It is called "Ocean City Expressway". Rte. 90 crosses Assawoman Bay at 62nd Street.

Posted by: Mike in Baltimore | August 17, 2006 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I thought that the rentals went from Sat. to Sat., but that may be in Rehobeth.

Posted by: Sue | August 17, 2006 7:33 PM | Report abuse

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