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Thanksgiving Travel Advisory

Many of you have told me that you loathe the Delaware portion of I-95, particularly during the highway bridge rebuilding that has narrowed it from four lanes to two. Delaware's Department of Transportation doesn't like it any better than the rest of us, and its crews are working to finish that project by next Wednesday morning.

If they make their deadline -- and they're paying very close attention to it -- I-95 would be restored to four travel lanes just in time for the biggest part of the Thanksgiving getaway.

Of course, this news may complicate travel planning for some of you who are heading north for the holiday. Leave before Wednesday and drive through the restricted highway or wait till Wednesday, or later, and have four lanes?

Here are some interesting traffic statistics from the Delaware DOT that you might consider in planning your passage through that state. These are the number of vehicles recorded at the Newark Toll Plaza on I-95 during each day of the Thanksgiving getaway last year:

Thanksgiving Day -- 103,464
Friday -- 89,765
Saturday -- 120,888
Sunday -- 127,859

By Robert Thomson  |  November 15, 2006; 8:19 AM ET
Categories:  Getaway  
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An easy way around this mess from the DC area is to take 50 East across the Bay Bridge, then take 301 North to Delaware. You can then choose to meet up with 95 in Newark at exit 1 (just past the toll plaza), or take 13/40 East which will bring you to 295 near the base of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. This route is far less heavily traveled, and 301 (while not an interstate) has few traffic signals and moves quickly with minimal congestion. I've done the reverse route home on the Sunday after the holiday and it's a much easier and less congested alternative.

Posted by: AJA | November 15, 2006 9:28 AM | Report abuse

The problem with I95 through DE isn't the lanes as much as the toll plaza. Driving North when traffic generally goes South, you'll see them slowing down around exit 4. It's ridiculous. They either need to fully staff (there's always about half of them closed) or rip them out entirely. As it is, DE only serves to slow down travel between NJ/PA and MD.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 15, 2006 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I haven't been home to NJ in at least 10 years because of this issue. I can't take any leave from work, so this year we're heading north on Wednesday evening. Gross! The plan from the Leesburg area is to take the Rt 70 to 695 beltway to 40 north to only get onto 95 when 40 runs out - we're heading to the del mem bridge. Any other ideas out there? I'd happily take suggestions.

The last time I did this 3 1/2 hour drive on Thanksgiving weekend, it took me 7 hours. Which is why it's been so many years since I did it. Would prefer to not do that again!

Posted by: Dreading the drive | November 15, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

If going to NJ (you didn't say where), consider doing the 15n to Penn Tpke to Rt 1 to I 295 (coming in through Trenton). This works if going to middle-north NJ like Princeton, New Brunswick, Morris County (where I'm from).

As for taking 40 through Delaware, I've seen backups at the Susquehanna in MD bigtime when jumping off 95, be careful.

Posted by: JD | November 15, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I've been travelling this route for years, and one trick is to avoid the Delaware Turnpike tollboths entirely.

Going northbound, take exit 109 in Maryland (the last exit in MD) and follow Route 279 North towards Newark. Go through several traffic lights and turn right onto Route 2 East. Stay on Route 2 (which will turn in to Route 4) for about 5 or 6 miles going through several traffic lights. Eventually you'll see signs for Route 273 South and I-95. Take this exit to get back onto 95. You still have to contend with the Delaware Bridge, but at least this will get you past the tolls. Once in New Jersey, I would recommend I-295 until it ends at I-195. Go East on 195 and take exit 6 for the New Jersey Turnpike. This saves some time and toll also.

Reverse the process coming southbound. Take Exit 3, Route 273 North towards Newark and continue for about a half mile until you see signs for Route 4 west. Loop around the ramp and go right at the end of it. Stay on 4 until it turns into 2. Stay on 2 until it goes down to two lanes and then turn left at the light (it looks like a T junction, although it isn't really). Go up the hill and you'll see signs for 95 again. Take the exit for Baltimore.

Posted by: Shunpiker | November 15, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

What about if you're driving on I-95 South from NoVA to Richmond? My plan is to leave around 7:30/8 on Thursday/Thanksgiving morning. This is my first time driving there on this holiday. What should I expect?

Posted by: Help!! | November 15, 2006 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the suggestions. I'm actually travelling to Cherry Hill, which is South Jersey, exit 4 on the turnpike (slightly south of that - I actually take 295N directly to my parents house)

Posted by: Dreading the drive | November 15, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I avoid this situation entirely by leaving DC early Thursday morning. OK, so I miss Thanksgiving Eve with everyone, but I'd rather spend it in my own bed than stuck in traffic on the highway.
Also, it really is worth it to get EZ PASS. Even on good traffic days, it can save you 10 minutes/toll booth...that really adds up over the course of a trip.

Posted by: I-95 Pro | November 15, 2006 1:27 PM | Report abuse

The only problem with what "Shunpiker" suggests is that next week I-95 will back up well beyond the two exits in question, so you still get stuck.

For "Dreading the Drive," I concur that the Pennsylvania Turnpike can work well. This summer when I-95 was snarled with beach traffic I used the I-83 to US-30 to the Turnpike route to go up to the Trenton area, and the Turnpike was great--people actually drove in the correct lane and left the left lane open for passing, and I seldom had to drop much below 80 mph.

To get to the Cherry Hill area, you just continue over the bridge to Jersey and then go south on the Jersey Turnpike, or if that's backed up you can take Exit 6A right after entering Jersey; it puts you on US-130, which you can follow to I-295.

Posted by: Rich | November 15, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Here's what me and my family do for the drive from New England here: go home after work Wednesday, pack the car, go to bed, wake up at midnight and drive. There's virtually no traffic, including the GW Bridge and Delaware; having an EZPass does help make the trip even faster. They arrive early Thanksgiving morning - just in time for me to get up and start dinner while they nap.

We're all rested, prepared, and relaxed by the time we sit down to dinner.

Posted by: College Park Gal | November 15, 2006 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Dreading the Drive,

I'm originally from Gloucester County, so I feel your pain.

You don't need to take the Delaware Memorial Bridge, do you? What about the Comm. Barry Bridge? Take 40 PAST 295 and get on 495. That'll loop you around Wilmington and get you on 95N, and then you can bail on the Comm.Barry Bridge and 295 is just across the river.

Another option is instead of taking 40, you can take Rt 1 off of the Balt. Beltway (695) and take that all the way in PA. That'll hook you up with 322, which is the road that crosses the Comm. Barry Bridge. It's a little slower, but you're constantly moving and it's lightly traveled.

Good luck!

Posted by: Kim | November 15, 2006 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with the whole leaving at midnight thing, as something I do frequently when driving north. DC to Philly is really only a two hour drive when there are few cars on the road. My plan for this year is to drive up early Thursday morning, as in 5am early, and slide into the Starbucks on Rt. 1 by Longwood Gardens by 7am.

Posted by: Dakota Pants | November 15, 2006 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Every single exit north of the Baltimore Beltway connects with both Route 1 to the west, and Route 40 to the East. Route 40 is a much better alternate (more open road) to get up north, EXCEPT that Route 1 over the Conowingo Dam saves you the $5.00 toll of the Tydings/Hatem bridges.
For "Help!!" driving south - You'll get typical Saturday traffic on 95 South, on Thursday morning. Add about 30 minutes to your travel time between Springfield and Fredericksburg, and you'll be good to go. I'll also be headed that way (though I may bail out to 1 or 301), so I'll be sure and wave hello. :)

Posted by: Pulaski Hwy | November 16, 2006 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Could someone give me advice on what to expect Wednesday afternoon on 287N going into upstate New York?

Posted by: Baltimore blue | November 21, 2006 7:36 PM | Report abuse

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