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Driving tips for Thanksgiving Day

Plenty of people will be traveling on Thanksgiving Day, many for trips of two to four hours, with a quick turnaround after a big meal.

Traffic: The holiday driving and parking rules will be in effect. That includes free parking at the lots and garages operated by Metro.

David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, says I-95 north of Baltimore and south toward the Wilson Bridge tends to back up on Thanksgiving Day itself. But with most people off work and the malls closed, traffic overall is light. So light, that as WTOP's Bob Marbourg says, some service area restaurants will be closed, so bring a snack.

And do be cautious about driving home Thanksgiving night. Many drivers will be drowsy from all that holiday food, and drink. If your car becomes disabled, or if you see someone disabled on a highway, you can contact state police in Maryland or Virginia by hitting #77 on your cell phone.

Wear your seat belt. It sounds so basic, but when I ask transportation officials and safety experts for their tips to travelers, this is often at the top of their list of things drivers can do -- and often don't -- that make a big difference.

Virginia traffic signals: For the holidays, the Virginia Department of Transportation will change the timing on traffic signals around 14 big shopping centers in Northern Virginia to cut down on delays and maximize traffic flow on the main roads. (Maryland uses a different system.)

This year, the signal switch will start on Thanksgiving Day, rather than on Friday. Traffic planners noted last year that volume started to build up a bit on Thanksgiving Day itself. Some people get kind of anxious about the shopping thing. Tysons Corner Center, for example, plans to open up at the stroke of midnight on Thanksgiving night. (That's 12 a.m. Friday.) But shoppers should check here to see when their store will be open. More about Black Friday travel in a later posting today.

Metrobus detours: Four routes will be detoured around Thanksgiving Day events.
-- From 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., Route J2 will be routed around the Bethesda-Chevy Chase YMCA Annual Turkey Chase 10K and 2 mile walk and run that will close the 9500 block of Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda.
-- From 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Routes 10A and 10B will be rerouted for the Turkey Trot 5 miler, which will close the 3500 block of Commonwealth Avenue in Alexandria.
-- From 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., Route 4B will be rerouted around the Arlington Christ Church Turkey Trot 5K, which will close the 300 block of North Highland Street in Arlington.

Metrorail: On Thanksgiving Day, the trains will operate on a Sunday schedule, with the stations opening at 7 a.m. and closing at midnight. Trains on all lines will operate with six cars.

To the Eastern Shore: The Route 90 (Ocean City Expressway) bridge has reopened ahead of schedule and in time for the holidays. You no longer need to use the Route 50 detour to reach Ocean City and points north.

By Robert Thomson  |  November 25, 2009; 9:41 AM ET
Categories:  Driving , holiday travel , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Thanksgiving, travel tips  
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