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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 08:58 AM ET, 07/01/2011

More tips for summer getaways

I’ve gotten several questions and suggestions very recently about summer getaways.

While the July 4 holiday weekend is approaching, many of you now have time for longer trips.

This from a Silver Spring resident: We’re leaving for southeastern Maine this weekend and wanted to ask what time(s) on Friday (July 1) and Saturday (July 2) are the best to be driving through the Delaware Memorial Bridge area? Also, will the construction there stop over the 4th of July weekend?

DG: Highway traffic outbound from the D.C. area should be heavier than normal between about 1 and 8 p.m. Friday, but we’re not talking about a Thanksgiving-level getaway. Since the regular school year is over, many people already have made their getaway, or at least, they won’t have to wait till Friday afternoon to pick up the kids and hit the road. Plus, this isn’t the over-the-river-and-through-the-woods-to-grandma’s holiday. This is the backyard barbecue holiday.

AAA Mid-Atlantic, which does surveys in anticipation of holiday getaways, estimates that slightly fewer people in the D.C. area will be participating in the July 4 weekend getaway this year compared to last. The auto association attributes this to gas prices, though they’ve been falling lately.

Summer vs. winter

One thing about a Saturday getaway in summertime: You’ll probably run into some beach traffic in the morning. It might happen at the Bay Bridge toll plaza, through I had no problem there on a recent Saturday morning. It could certainly happen on I-95 in Delaware, where many people will branch off to head south on Route 1 or Route 13.

Road work

As usual, transportation departments in the D.C. area and elsewhere suspend their road projects during holiday getaway times. So you’ll rarely see a lane closed by orange barrels. However, they don’t pull up the concrete barriers or re-stripe the lanes just for holidays.

In the D.C. area, that means you’ll still encounter the lane shifts for the Virginia Beltway’s HOT lanes project and for Maryland’s reconstruction of the Beltway bridge over the Northwest Branch in Silver Spring. Delaware won’t be doing any work at the I-95 toll plaza, and drivers are very likely to find the new highway-speed E-ZPass lanes open.

But if they continue onto the New Jersey Turnpike, they’ll encounter a lengthy work zone where the state is widening the highway. It’s somewhat similar to the HOT lanes project in that the work is to the right of the travel lanes in each direction. But there are periodic lane shifts, and the right shoulder is sometimes blocked by concrete barriers.

New England routes

This suggestion for New England-bound drivers came in from Bobby Baum of Bethesda:

If you’re taking the alternate route north all the way to Boston, consider staying on Interstate 81 to Scranton and taking I-84 east to I-90 east. There’s a toll on 90 but this completely bypasses the congestion and tolls around New York City.

If you’re heading northeast from the east side of Washington, consider the Baltimore-Washington Parkway as an alternative to I-95. If you’re starting from the west side of town, take Route 29 north to I-70 east to the Baltimore Beltway if you’re taking the alternate route north [heading into Pennsylvania on I-83 north of Baltimore] but not if you’re taking the standard route [along I-95].

Other destinations

A couple from Annapolis just asked me to suggest a route that would get them up to Denville, in Northern New Jersey. That’s a bit different from the origins and destinations we usually discuss, but I incorporated many of the route suggestions I’ve gotten from travelers and tried myself:

Here’s what I suggested: On a route starting from Annapolis, I’d go across the Bay Bridge and up Route 301 toward Delaware. (I find that route so much less stressful than heading up I-95. Traffic on 301 tends to be light and there’s pretty scenery.)

Last week, I took 301 up to Delaware and turned right on Route 896 (Boyds Corner Road) to Route 1 (that’s a toll road) to Route 13 to I-295 and then east to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. (An alternative is simply to pick up Route 13 off Boyds Corner Road and stay with that up to I-295.)

Once you get across the bridge, you can take either I-295 or the New Jersey Turnpike (toll) to go north. I almost always take the Turnpike, because I think it’s simpler.

I think I’d probably get off the turnpike at exit 11 and head north on the Garden State Parkway (I think you’d go through either two or three toll plazas on the parkway) then head west on I-280 and then I-80 to reach Denville.

This is just one of several ways to do the trip. You can see I’m ignoring tolls, which I know are important to many travelers. I’m favoring highways that have lots of lanes where traffic volume is likely to be highest. This route does skip several toll plazas in Maryland and the big one at Newark, Del., that so many of my readers complain about. (Although that may get better now that the highway-speed E-ZPass lanes are opening.) The route I just described would take me about four and a half hours.

By  |  08:58 AM ET, 07/01/2011

Categories:  Getaways

 
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