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Holiday Traffic: An Oxymoron?

Andrea Sachs

This holiday weekend, the roads and airport security lines will be missing something -- 9,000 travelers. According to a AAA forecast for the Fourth of July weekend, fewer Americans will be going the distance to watch the rockets' red (and gold and blue and silver) glare.

However, that does not mean the roads will be as empty as a country lane on a moonless night or that the airports will be deserted shells. More than 670,000 Washington-area residents, or 12.5 percent of the population, will be traveling at least 50 miles from their home; nationwide, about 40.4 million Americans will be traveling, which would be like if all of Tanzania went on holiday. For Beltway folks, here is an additional breakdown: 530,700 will travel by car, 105,800 by plane, 32,300 by train or bus, and zero by camel or hot-air balloon.

Despite the wee drop from last year (3.3 percent among cars and drivers, for example), don't get lulled into thinking that Indie Day will be a bump-free ride. Travel during off-peak times, which means leaving very early or very late on Thursday and returning very early or late on Sunday. If you can travel on Monday, all the better. On Tuesday, great. Wednesday, well, might as well take the whole week off. For air travel, check-in online and leave your home early, allowing for extra time to find parking, since many lots may be overstuffed. For updates on road and airport delays, check in with the Department of Transportation. Oh, and as a July 4 gift, the DOT is opening military airspace to commercial airplanes, which should reduce delays along the East Coast. Thanks, America.

And for those staying in D.C. for the holiday . . . Keep the car in park and dust off your Schwinn. For the festivities on the National Mall, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association will be offering free valet bike parking, at 15th and Independence Ave SW and on the south side of the Lincoln Memorial. Both sites will be open from 2 to 10 p.m., hopefully after the last firework has fizzled.

By Andrea Sachs |  July 3, 2008; 6:57 AM ET  | Category:  Andrea Sachs
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My husband and I will be using twice as much fuel this holiday weekend. Go figure. He's off at noon today so he'll be driving up to New York in our camper van, which we'll be leaving at our summer home. I have to work all day (AND I hate holiday traffic) so I'll be leaving tomorrow at 4 a.m. in the car. A co-worker is heading to Long Island at 8pm this evening. We all plan on comparing travel times and traffic stories when we get back to D.C. on Tuesday.

Posted by: Karen | July 3, 2008 10:32 AM

I just got in after driving much of the day and believe me, here in New Jersey, the traffic is terrible. Part of the problem is they closed the Garden State Parkway part of the day due to a fatality, but we all laughed in the car when the radio announcer said fewer people were driving because of fuel costs. At the time, we were doing 2 mph in an endless sea of cars that looked like the evacuation scene in Independence Day. I guess somewhere people are driving less -- at least according to the Washington Post -- but I would love to see anybody posting that traffic is light in their area.

Posted by: Tom | July 3, 2008 2:53 PM

A Saturday update:

My husband and I left the DC area from Woodbridge about 9 am this morning.

DC traffic was moderate, despite the rain. Once we got up 270 though where it went to two lanes, things calmed down.

70 West was moving but hardly empty. Lots of Michigan plates followed us on the Penn. and Ohio Tpks. But they dropped away after a while, and after we got past 69 north in Indiana, the Indiana Toll Road was nearly empty.

We're staying in the same hotel at South Bend we stayed in almost two weeks ago on the way out. It's only got about 1/3 of the occupancy it did then.

Chicago and general MSP area tomorrow...

Posted by: Chasmosaur | July 5, 2008 9:06 PM

I found good info for staying in the DC area at:
www.tripcart.com/usa-regions/Capital.aspx

and had a great weekend

Posted by: david M | July 11, 2008 10:14 AM

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