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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 11:47 AM ET, 12/23/2011

Heavy traffic on major routes out of town

For the latest transportation and transit news, follow us on Twitter: @drgridlock.

5:30 P.M. Update: Beware of increased traffic volumes around the area, and be especially alert around malls and other shopping centers, where people are dashing about for those last-minute gifts.

The Virginia Department of Transportaton has customized signal timing around hundreds of intersections to help with the flow, but you should still expect backups and delays. Some of the shopping areas include: the Tysons malls, Reston Town Center, Fair Lakes Shopping Center, Fair Oaks Mall, Potomac Mills mall, Manassas Mall, the Route 234 shopping centers, Springfield Mall, Cascades Town Center, Potomac Run Center, Dulles Town Center, Leesburg Outlets, Dulles 28 Centre, Central Park Shopping Center and Spotsylvania Towne Centre.

Dr. Gridlock says other areas you should watch out for include Rockville Pike, Landover Road near the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 100 near Arundel Mills, and Interstates 295 and 95 near National Harbor.

More resources

Travelers plan their Christmas getaways

Getaway advice for Virginia driving

Getaway guide for Maryland

Traffic and transit tips

Transportation changes for Christmas weekend

If you’re flying, before you head to the airport check with your airline to make sure everything is running on time.

Airlines

Airlines serving BWI
Airlines serving Dulles
Airlines serving Reagan National
The FAA's Flight Delay map

Airline advisories
AirTran Airways
American Airlines
Continental Airlines
Delta Airlines
Frontier Airlines
JetBlue
Southwest Airlines
United Airlines
US Airways
Virgin America

4:25 P.M. Update:

Traffic is still slow on I-95 South in Virginia. There are a few spots where it eases between the Beltway and Fredericksburg, but quite frankly you’re not going to see full relief from the gridlock until you’re beyond Fredericksburg.

Congestion has eased on westbound I-66 heading from the District to the Beltway, a huge change from an hour ago when cars were crawling through Falls Church.

However, westbound I-66 slows down again as you approach Oakton and Chain Bridge Road. Things clear up again after Route 50 and around Centreville.

Traffic is pretty bad on Route 7 and Chain Bridge Road/Route 123 in Tysons Corner right now, so expect delays if you’re heading to that mall.

The inner loop of the Beltway is heavily backed up from the I-270 Spur over to College Park.

I-270 North is still no picnic. There’s a decent amount of congestion heading away from the spur, and it significantly slows down around Rockville.

The F.A.A.’s flight delay map shows delays at Baltimore Washington International Airport and at Newark International Airport. Check with your airline before heading out. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for help in contacting your airlines.)

3:15 P.M. Update:

Traffic is seriously slowing down on major arteries around the Washington region right now.

Westbound I-66 is heavily congested as you approach the Beltway, with traffic easing a but once you get past that. Traffic slows again at Chain Bridge Road and at Route 50, but after those spots it eases again in Centreville and beyond.

I-95 South in Virginia is just as slow as you might have expected/feared. Traffic is absolutely crawling seemingly all the way to Stafford, and it slows again around Richmond. (If you’re already that far south, things are a lot clearer after Richmond.)

Good news for travelers heading east to Annapolis on U.S. 50. Things appear to be moving pretty smoothly on that route.

I-95 North is very slow from College Park to the Baltimore area. If you’re heading further up I-95, things do look much lighter after Charm City.

I-270 North is not bad near the Beltway, but once you get past Gaithersburg and get to the Germantown/Clarksburg area it really becomes congested. Expect delays.

Original Post:

The holiday weekend is upon us, which means lots of people are heading to the airport or hitting the road to get a head start on their celebrations. (People have actually been leaving town since at least Wednesday, based on the decreasing congestion we’ve seen in some spots around the region.)

If you’re heading out on Friday, don’t forget to read our tips and advice before you leave. And remember, both MARC and VRE have altered their service plans for commuter rail riders today.

Travelers plan their Christmas getaways

Getaway advice for Virginia driving

Getaway guide for Maryland

Traffic and transit tips

Transportation changes for Christmas weekend

Traffic was predictably slow on I-95 South heading away from the Beltway in Virginia. Delays stretch as far as Woodbridge, but once you pass that area it actually eases temporarily. Things slow down again before Fredericksburg and ease up after that spot.

Things are running smoothly at the region’s three airports. The economy parking lot had filled up on Friday morning. Travelers can check the parking status online before heading out.

There are still 14,000 parking spaces at Dulles International Airport, said Kimberly Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Dulles and National.

If you’re heading to Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport for the first time since the last holiday season, be aware of some changes at the airport. Delta relocated to a different concourse earlier this month, while AirTran moved to the Southwest Airlines terminal.

The advice from airport officials is the same: Leave plenty of time to get to the airport and get through security.

The scene at Reagan National Airport on Friday morning was calm. Short lines waited at the Transportation Security Administration’s security checkpoints in Terminal B/C, with the longest lines waiting for gates 35 to 45 (the U.S. Airways wing, located at the northern end of the terminal).

There wasn’t even a long line at the Starbucks upstairs in terminal B/C.

“We didn’t know what to expect with the airport, but it’s relatively people-free,” said Jeremy Zukas, 29, of Arlington.

His fiancee, Jenny Comick, was waiting in the short Starbucks line for oatmeal. The couple, who got engaged on Thursday, were flying to Boston to visit Comick’s family. They were both pleasantly surprised at the light Starbucks crowd and the lack of crowds throughout the airport.

Things were considerably more crowded at some of the gates, said Bob Lindberg of Boston. He flew into National from Logan Airport and was pacing the terminal while awaiting his connection to Charleston.

“Beyond the gate, it’s terrible,” said Lindberg, 54, a chef at Harvard University. “It’s a mess. Too many people, not enough chairs.”

National was mostly populated by people taking departing flights, befitting Washington’s reputation as a place where everyone is from somewhere else. The baggage claim area was nearly empty and a scant few passengers waited outside the airport for cars. The cab stand line only held four people at one point.

The crowd inside the gate was “similar” to the Thanksgiving crowd, said Allison Bryant, 24, of Boston. She’s visiting family in Washington for the holidays, and she often travels around the holiday season.

Before you head to the airport, check with your airline to make sure everything is running on time. Here are some resources:

Airlines

Airlines serving BWI
Airlines serving Dulles
Airlines serving Reagan National
The FAA's Flight Delay map

Airline advisories
AirTran Airways
American Airlines
Continental Airlines
Delta Airlines
Frontier Airlines
JetBlue
Southwest Airlines
United Airlines
US Airways
Virgin America

By  |  11:47 AM ET, 12/23/2011

 
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