Getaway tips for July 4 weekend traffic


The holiday road often begins in a traffic jam. But the July 4 getaway congestion won’t match what you see at Thanksgiving. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Highway traffic away from the Washington area should be heavier than normal between about 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday, the eve of the holiday. But it’s summer vacation season, and many people already have made their getaways.

Monitor the potential for storms over the next few days via the Capital Weather Gang, but the outlook for the Independence Day weekend is good.

Transportation departments suspend their regular work around holidays, but that still leaves bottlenecks in long-term construction zones, at toll plazas and at points where highways narrow.

These are some to watch for during your long-distance trips this weekend.

  • I-95 in Delaware. The I-495 bypass in Wilmington is unavailable because of a bridge closing. That makes traffic extra heavy on I-95. This could be a problem for holiday traffic on Thursday and Sunday afternoons.
  • I-95 in Baltimore. A rebuilding project between the Fort McHenry Tunnel and Caton Avenue reduces lanes and splits traffic in both directions. There are speed cameras in this area. Watch for slow traffic if you’re going through the city or heading to the Friday night fireworks at Inner Harbor.
  • I-95/395 in Northern Virginia. The Virginia Department of Transportation will suspend lane closings on most highways statewide from noon Thursday to noon Monday. But drivers on I-395/95 still are likely to encounter delays because of the high volumes of traffic along the 29-mile work zone for the 95 Express Lanes.
  • Virginia HOV lanes. HOV restrictions on Interstate 66, I-95 and I-395 are as usual on Thursday. They will be lifted on Friday. The reversible HOV lanes on I-95/395 will follow this pattern for the holiday weekend: On Friday, they will be northbound from 2 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and southbound from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. They will reopen northbound by 2 a.m. Saturday.
  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The Maryland Transportation Authority says the best times to cross the Bay Bridge for this holiday weekend should be: Thursday before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m., Friday before 7 a.m. and after 5 p.m., Saturday before 7 a.m. and after 5 p.m., Sunday before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
  • New Jersey Turnpike. If you haven’t traveled this route to New York and New England since last summer, it’s going to look different in the work zone between exits 6 and 9 in the middle of New Jersey. The new lanes at the sides of the highway are open and the old inner lanes are closed while construction continues.

See more details about the bottlenecks in this posting.

See this posting about I-95 in Baltimore.

Online traffic and travel information
For Virginia, look at 511virginia.org.
For Maryland, look at md511.org.
For Bay Bridge conditions, see the Bay Bridge traffic cameras.
For Delaware, look at the Delaware Department of Transportation Live Traffic page.
For forecasts, look at Capital Weather Gang.
For traffic and road closure information nationwide, see this Federal Highway Administration page.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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