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Thanksgiving Traffic
With Lon Anderson of AAA Potomac
Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2000; 11 a.m. EST

As the spokesman for AAA Potomac, Lon Anderson is charged with spreading the message of safe travel on the roads. This holiday weekend, travelers in Washington and beyond are expected to reach record numbers, increasing the need for precautions for local road warriors. The airports are expected to be similar crowd scenes, even busier than last year.

How will you handle the holiday rush? Do you have special strategies to cope with the crowds? What's the best way to plan for Sunday traffic, which includes an afternoon Redskins game at FedEx field?

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

washingtonpost.com: Hello! Thanks for joining us today. Do you expect there to be more travelers this year?

Lon Anderson: Welcome everybody. Thanks for your interest. There will be a lot more travel over this holiday period. AAA is projecting 588,000 Washingtonians taking trips of 100 miles or more--record numbers and 4% more than last year!

Arlington, VA: My folks are driving down here this afternoon after work from Massachusetts and plan to stay in New Jersey in a hotel near the turnpike. They have listings for hotels. It seems unpredictable to gauge how far they'll get tonight, but what is the likelihood that the reasonably-priced Comfort Inn-like places will sell out?

Lon Anderson: There is a strong likelihood that rooms a long I-95 will be tough to come by. Nationwide, we are projecting some 39 million traveling, 81% on the highways. That means your parents will have an awful lot of company. they really should try to project where they will be an call ahead by early afternoon. Good Luck!!

Fairfax: What will traffic be like on I95 Sunday? I'll be making a quick trip to Atlantic City with friends on Saturday, and am concerned about coming home Sunday mid-day.

Thank you!

Lon Anderson: Hi Fairfax-- Great question. Sunday has the potential of being a traffic meltdown on some of our roads, like I-95 in MD. Everyone wants to be home for school and work Monday, so the trip back into town will be congested. Add to that a Redskins game at 1 p.m. at FedEx field, and think what the traffic will be around 4 p.m. when the game lets out and the roads are filled with game-goers and record number of holiday travelers returning from trips. Buckle that seat belt! good Luck

Washington, D.C.: I have an early morning (7:30 a.m.) flight out of National Airport on Thursday. Because it's a holiday, will I be able to take the metro? Or will the metro system be on a special holiday schedule? I'd like to be at the airport by 6:30 a.m.

Lon Anderson: Great question, Washington DC. You are out of luck. Metro will run from 8 a.m. 'til midnight on Thanksgiving. Holiday schedule all the way. Ain't transit grand? Now if you leave Friday, we are back to regular schedule with service starting at 5:30 and running 'til 2 a.m. Should you adjust your flight to meet Metro's schedule? Your call!

Washington, D.C.: When is the best time to depart Washington, D.C. to Camden, NJ via bus? How does 3 a.m. Nov. 24 look?

Lon Anderson: Hey, Washington DC. 3 a.m. on the roads should be a great time, but watch out for the drowsy drivers. You have pinpointed a time when we probably won't have gridlock on the roads--and there are not many any more!!!

Bethesda: When traffic is backed up for miles on the NJ Turnpike, what's the best way to stay sane?

Lon Anderson: Hello Bethesda--When backed up on the NJ turnpike, try talking books, local roads, or if you're completely stopped, whip out the laptop and start e-mailing your Governor and members of Congress about this mess. But only if stopped completely. Otherwise, do that when you get home. Remember, it didn't just happen--our congestion has been created by inaction! But whatever you do, don't become a raging aggressive driver. Stay sane!

Metro Media Relations: We are sorry that the Metrorail system will not open until 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. We made that decision based on previous ridership demand on Thanksgiving morning. We will be open until midnight on Thanksgiving, from 5:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday, and from 8 a.m. to midnight on Sunday. I would rather try to adjust my flight schedule than battle that automobile traffic any day!

Lon Anderson: Hey Metro Media relations--You've got to be kidding! The only thing worse than Washington traffic is airline service. We have just had a year with the worst customer service in history. hundreds of thousands of travelers sleeping in airports. If you've got a solid booking on an airline with no labor problems, I'd keep it!!!

The District: I hope that SOMEONE knows the answer to this ... do zone parking regulations apply in the district on Friday? I know they don't on Thursday, because of the holiday, but am crossing my fingers about Friday too!

Lon Anderson: The district: Good question. You pay all the way on Friday. DC needs its revenue! Sorry...

NJ Native: When traffic is backed up on the southern part of the NJ Turnpike, 295 is a great alternative. It runs parallel to the turnpike from the Delaware Memorial Bridge to Trenton, and no tolls! You can cut over right after the bridge before the tolls, and at most of the exits. Coming south, you get on at exit 7A Shore Points and take 195 West about 10 miles.

Lon Anderson: Thanks, NJ Native. I needed help on that one!

washingtonpost.com: Do you have any tips for avoiding deer darting into the road, and what area are most risky? Thanks!

Lon Anderson: We are in the height of the rutting season for deer right now. There is no magic bullet, so to speak. If you come upon a deer, use your horn, not your lights. Lights can cause them to freeze. Don't swerve to miss. You may lose control--we had two ladies killed on the BW Parkway last year who did that. If you are going to hit the deer, take your foot off the brake just before impact to raise the hood and increase the chance it will go under the car rather than over. Under is better. Be extra cautious in rural area and areas where deer have been seen. They tend to be creatures of habit. Good luck. The average deer strike collisions cost $2,000 in damage!

Washington, D.C.: Do you know how much the long-term parking at National Airport is? Or how someone can find that information?

Lon Anderson: It can be as low as $7 per day in economy lots. Try metwashairports.com/national/parking for more details--or try Metro--it is a great way to get to Reagan National.

washington, dc: Hi--I'm driving from DC to Charlottesville, VA this afternoon and a coworker just told me that I-66 is HOV restricted out of town in the afternoons. Do you know what time these restrictions apply? Will the traffic be such a nightmare that I should leave later on tonight or take another route? Thanks.

Lon Anderson: Hi washington,dc: HOV starts at 3, I believe on outbound I-66. Traffic after 3 today has the potential of being a nightmare. Get out early or go late. You'll only have most of 475,000 area folks driving with you on this holiday, with a heck of a lot of them leaving this afternoon!! Good luck!

Arlington, VA: In a couple hours we're headed up 95 to North Jersey. Is there a Web site that can give me up to date construction information? I would hope that no crews will actually be working today -- is that logical?? We've got a couple books on tape though, just in case!

Lon Anderson: Hello Arlington: There was some construction going on this a.m. but all will be over by early p.m. and will be suspended for the holidays in most jurisdictions. There is a Web site for I-95, but I do not remember it, but suggest you try: www.usastar.com/i95/alert.htm and see if that helps!

Bowie, Md.: Hi Lon:

This has nothing to do with traveling today, but I've been wondering if you're the same Lon Anderson I knew in college.

Did you attend the University of Maryland and work for the Diamondback in (at least) the fall of 1982?

Wishing everyone safe travels!

Lon Anderson: I was at MD and was at the Diamondback but in '72 not '82. Did you have a typo there?

Arlington: You can pooh-pooh Metro and transit all you want, but if it weren't for metro you'd have a couple of hundred thousand more cars on the road on any given day. Why do you have such a negative attitude toward transit? Yes, metro has it's problems, but I'd much rather ride the train with a problem every once in a while than be stuck in my car with the ridiculous traffic we have around here.

As for Thanksgiving morning travel, I agree that it wouldn't make any sense to change a flight, so this person will either have to find a very helpful friend or take a shuttle/taxi. I love riding the metro right into National, it's incredibly convenient and much cheaper than paying to park. It just happens that this person is travelling on a HOLIDAY, so they should expect a HOLIDAY metro schedule.

Lon Anderson: I couldn't agree more. Metro is great. But please recognize its limitations. You can't take it for that 7 a.m. flight for tomorrow, for example! when it's applicable it is terrific. Problem with fixed rail, is its limited applicability. We have one of the best systems in the country, and it is full every day and we still have the second worst congestion in the nation, and we have the second highest no. of mass transit commuter in the nation. It's great but more transit and roads are needed.

DC: I have to drive up to New York for the holiday. When would be a better time to leave, sometime this afternoon, this evening, or early tomorrow morning?

Lon Anderson: Hey DC. Tomorrow morning should be traffic light. Go tomorrow early and you should move well.

Wash., DC: Is there a reasonable alternative to North Jersey via Pennsylvania? Would love to miss the mess at the Delaware Bridge.

Lon Anderson: Hey, Wash, DC--Call me and I will find out for you. don't know with our conferring with my Triptik department. 703-AAA-4100. and thanks for asking!

herndon, va: Just got tickets for the Eagles/Redskins game!! If we use Metro, what's the stop closest to the stadium, and where do we catch the shuttle buses?

Lon Anderson: Hi herndon: I go the Landover station, and have had very good experiences from there. It beats driving--trust me!

washingtonpost.com: Thanks for joining us today! We hope everyone has a safe traveling experience and a great holiday!

Lon Anderson: Thank you everyone, it's been great! Have a great and safe holiday.

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company


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