Avoid Holiday Congestion This Week
Get out of town now. That's the advice from my readers and from transportation departments. Don't wait till after noon on Wednesday to make your Thanksgiving escape.
But if you suspect it's not the first time you've heard that advice, you're right. More and more people do start the Thanksgiving getaway earlier in the week. So other periods -- Tuesday evening, for example -- also are starting to get crowded on the roads.
AAA reports that the national average price of gas fell below $2 a gallon on Friday, for the first time since March 2005. Prices have fallen nearly 50 percent since peaking in mid-July at $4.11 a gallon.
While AAA projects that fewer people will travel far for Thanksgiving this year, it still expects a travel boom for the week, with Wednesday afternoon and Sunday being the peak driving times.
On the Nov. 16 Commuter page in The Post, I offered some suggestions I've collected from readers over the past few years about alternative holiday routes.
But most of those readers also advice that the timing of your departure is a bigger part of success than the route. There are no undiscovered shortcuts.
[The Post Travel section's Flight Crew invited me to join them for their Travel Talk online discussion at 2 p.m. today, in case I can help with any of your questions about driving out of here for the holidays. If you'd like to submit a question or comment before the chat begins, use this link.]
The Virginia Department of Transportation offers some specific advice based on traffic data collected from its road sensors since 2003. The heaviest volume on the Interstate system will likely occur from noon and 8 p.m. Wednesday, VDOT says. Congestion on the return trip is harder to predict, because motorists tend to head home from Friday through Sunday. Still, the heaviest volumes are likely to occur Sunday afternoon.
Expect heavy congestion at these places in Virginia:
-- Interstate 95 between Richmond and I-495/I-395 Springfield Interchange
-- I-66 eastbound and westbound in Northern Virginia
-- I-81/I-77 interchange near Wytheville
-- I-81 near Lexington to south of Roanoke
-- I-64/I-95 in the Richmond area
In Maryland, some obvious congestion points will be the Interstate toll plazas in Baltimore and on I-95 northbound just past the Susquehanna River (no toll there southbound).
Online sources of traffic information:
-- For Virginia, look at www.511virginia.org.
-- For Maryland, look at www.chart.state.md.us
-- For regional information, look at our Trafficpage.
-- This is The Weather Channel's page for forecasts along the Interstates.
-- Here's the I-95 Travelers Alert page listing construction projects from Florida to Maine.
-- The Federal Highway Administration also has a page of Traffic and Road Closure information nawtionwide.
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