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Summertime, And the Letters Are Local

As July begins, something is different among my readers: There's been a dropoff in "Dear Dr. Gridlock" letters asking for advice about summer driving.

Normally, a bunch will come in asking about best routes to avoid tolls, or best routes around congested areas, or best scenic choices. Maybe it will be from someone traveling to New England or to the Outer Banks.

So far this summer, it's not the same. Letter writers are pretty much sticking to local transportation topics, rather than branching out. When they mention the price of gasoline, it's usually to support a complaint about the timing of local traffic signals. Or they talk about the record-setting crowds we're seeing on Metrorail, because some drivers switched to transit.

What are you hearing around the water cooler as the long Fourth of July weekend approaches? Are more people skipping the weekend trip and staying put?

AAA's weekly report on gas prices put the national average at $4.08, compared to $2.97 a year ago. The current price, which matches the average price in the Washington metropolitan area, is a record high, and enough to make lots of people stay put.

AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts a 1.3 percent decrease in the number of local people traveling this holiday weekend compared to a year ago. That would be nearly 9,000 fewer heading away.

"The biggest decline is in the number of area residents traveling by car this holiday," AAA Mid-Atlantic's Lon Anderson said in a statement.

"In fact, nearly seven thousand fewer people will be hitting the roads than this time last year," he said. "This is understandable given the fact that sky-high gas prices have forced Americans to drive less for the last sixth months in a row."

Still, under the circumstances, it wouldn't be a huge hit if those numbers prove correct. "What really is surprising," said Anderson, "is the fact that so many Washingtonians are still indicating their intent to travel."

By Robert Thomson  |  July 2, 2008; 6:44 AM ET
Categories:  Driving  
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Comments

Funny, my commute hasn't gotten more crowded or more expensive. Did I mention I bike to work?

Posted by: DC | July 2, 2008 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Well, my family and I are bucking the trend. We're loading up the station wagon and heading to Vermont. So, I'll ask the question. I'm hesitant to drive up the NJ Turnpike and Thruway for fear of holiday travel. I''ve contemplated going up 83 into PA, then 81 and 84 to get to I-87 in NY. Tolls aren't a concern at all, I don't mind paying them. I just loath traffic. What's the opinion? Will traffic be light enough on the Turnpike or should I add an hour to my travel time and avoid Jersey by going up through PA? Thoughts from the peanut gallery?

Posted by: E | July 2, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Well, my family and I are bucking the trend. We're loading up the station wagon and heading to Vermont. So, I'll ask the question. I'm hesitant to drive up the NJ Turnpike and Thruway for fear of holiday travel. I''ve contemplated going up 83 into PA, then 81 and 84 to get to I-87 in NY. Tolls aren't a concern at all, I don't mind paying them. I just loath traffic. What's the opinion? Will traffic be light enough on the Turnpike or should I add an hour to my travel time and avoid Jersey by going up through PA? Thoughts from the peanut gallery?

Posted by: E | July 2, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Well, my family and I are bucking the trend. We're loading up the station wagon and heading to Vermont. So, I'll ask the question. I'm hesitant to drive up the NJ Turnpike and Thruway for fear of holiday travel. I''ve contemplated going up 83 into PA, then 81 and 84 to get to I-87 in NY. Tolls aren't a concern at all, I don't mind paying them. I just loath traffic. What's the opinion? Will traffic be light enough on the Turnpike or should I add an hour to my travel time and avoid Jersey by going up through PA? Thoughts from the peanut gallery?

Posted by: E | July 2, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Well, my family and I are bucking the trend. We're loading up the station wagon and heading to Vermont. So, I'll ask the question. I'm hesitant to drive up the NJ Turnpike and Thruway for fear of holiday travel. I''ve contemplated going up 83 into PA, then 81 and 84 to get to I-87 in NY. Tolls aren't a concern at all, I don't mind paying them. I just loath traffic. What's the opinion? Will traffic be light enough on the Turnpike or should I add an hour to my travel time and avoid Jersey by going up through PA? Thoughts from the peanut gallery?

Posted by: Eric | July 2, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Cyclists are lawbreaking scum. And when they get to work they usually stink.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 2, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Dear E, was it really necessary to post that 4 times?

Posted by: F | July 2, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I'd be inclined to drive through PA instead of NJ on a holiday weekend. Though 81 in PA is not exactly going to be free and clear on holiday weekends either.

The Thruway jams up pretty bad on holiday weekends approaching the Woodbury Commons Outlets (Exit 16), but if you approach from I-84 you will be north of that point. Exit 24 in Albany also backs up during peak periods, so if you are continuing up onto the Northway (I-87 north of Albany), just take Exit 23 off the Thruway, then 787 north to Route 7 west and pick up the Northway in Latham NY.

And last suggestion is if you don't mind going a little further out of the way, stay on 81 to Binghamton NY, and pick up I-88 to Albany. It's a very scenic drive up I-88 and I can virtually guarantee there will be little to no traffic on New York's "Interstate to nowhere" (apparently a state Assemblyman from Binghamton wanted a quicker ride to the State Capitol).

Posted by: Woodley Park | July 2, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Wow Eric, we heard ya the first time!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 2, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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