The Washington Post

I-95 challenge awaits Mother’s Day drivers

Must be the heat: During this week’s online chat, we began to discuss long-range driving trips, an especially popular topic among drivers who haunt the crowded I-95 corridor.

I had just returned from a spring vacation on Cape Cod, and expressed concern about the volume of traffic on I-95 in Maryland. Many, I’m sure, were drivers bound to and from spring breaks. But the situation is likely to be the same for Mother’s Day weekend, May 7-8.

Drivers trying to scoot up to Philly, or New York or New England to say, “Hi, Mom,” are likely to spend way too much time edging through the I-95 toll plaza in Newark, Del. This is the same problem we discussed last fall, as people were planning their Thanksgiving getaways: The highway speed E-ZPass lanes are still under construction, and will be till the summer.

It’s likely to be a great help when done, but until then, the toll plaza — where tolls are collected in both directions — is an even worse bottleneck than it was before the construction began. I think it’s especially so in the northbound direction, and the worst part is the narrowing of the highway as drivers emerge from the toll booths.

See the Delaware Department of Transportation Web site for updates on construction and traffic.

During the chat, a traveler asked what was going on farther north, along the New Jersey Turnpike.

There’s a gigantic construction project between exits 6 and 9. But it’s far less burdensome on long-distance travelers than the Delaware toll plaza project.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is engaged in a widening project that might remind some drivers of the High Occupancy Toll lane construction on the Capital Beltway in Virginia. The work so far is off to the sides, beyond concrete barriers. So there’s not too much impact on the travel lanes, aside from some lane shifts between Mileposts 48 and 83.

When the $2.5 billion widening is done in late 2014, that section will resemble the turnpike farther north, where it’s divided into cars-only lanes in the middle and car/truck lanes on the outside. Look on the New Jersey Turnpike Authority Web site for updates on the project.

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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