When it comes to putting a lot of people on the roads in a short period of time, nothing beats Thanksgiving Day weekend, but the Mother’s Day weekend is often a strong runner-up. I’m particularly concerned about drivers who will be making quick trips up and down Interstate 95. So let’s review some of the advice we share about weekend getaways.
Just as it was last Thanksgiving, my key concern is about drivers heading northeast and encountering the I-95 toll plaza at Newark, Del. That’s a traditional bottleneck on the East Coast’s Main Street, but it’s worse right now because of the construction of highway speed E-ZPass lanes in the middle of the toll plaza.
They won’t be done till summer. In several recent passes along I-95 in Delaware, I noticed that the weekend traffic volumes are quite heavy through Maryland and Delaware. The slowdown is particularly noticeable on the northbound side at the toll plaza. (Delaware collects tolls in both directions.)
Many travelers have contributed Delaware Dodges to our discussions, and we’ll review them. But an advisory from the Maryland Transportation Authority is giving me second thoughts about my own preferred dodge.
While several detours take take drivers off I-95 for a relatively short distance around the Newark toll plaza, I like the longer loop that goes east on Route 50 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, then up Route 301 on the Eastern Shore to connect with the Interstate just west of the Delaware Memorial Bridge and well beyond the toll plaza congestion.
But the transportation authority has issued an advisory headlined, “Heavy weekend traffic expected at Bay Bridge.” What a revoltin’ development.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend, it’s Springfest in Ocean City.
The transportation authority said it will monitor traffic through the weekend and if the weather is good, allow two-way operations on the Bay Bridge’s westbound span to ease eastbound delays.
As usual, the authority encouraged off-peak travel and said the best travel times to avoid congestion are: Friday before noon and after 10 p.m., Saturday before 7 a.m. and between 5 and 10 p.m., Sunday between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
Call 1-877-BAYSPAN (877-229-7726) for current traffic conditions or go to baybridge.com to view live traffic cameras.
Delaware advisories: Before you leave home, check the live traffic reports from the Delaware Department of Transportation.
Approaching the toll plaza, tune in to radio station WTMC (1380 AM) for traffic updates.
Travelers most often recommend either of these routes around the toll plaza:
1) From I-95 north, take Route 279 toward Newark, Del. Turn right onto Iron Hill Road. At the end, turn left onto Chestnut Hill Road. Then turn right onto Route 896 (South College Avenue). I-95 will be a quarter-mile down the road.
2) From I-95 north, take Route 279 to Elkton Road, which becomes Route 2. Then go north about two miles, right on Route 4 (Christiana Parkway) for about a mile, then right again on College Avenue, with I-95 ahead. Some readers have told me this is a better route than the first, because it avoids local streets.
Here’s the route I like: Head east on Route 50 across the Bay Bridge, to Route 301 to State Road 896 (Churchtown/Boyds Corner Road) to Route 1 and Route 13. From there, drivers can reach I-295 and the Delaware Memorial Bridge to the New Jersey Turnpike or I-295 in New Jersey.
Others prefer a Pennsylvania swing: Baltimore-Washington Parkway to I-695 around the west side of Baltimore to I-83 north to I-81 north, just east of Harrisburg, Pa. Follow I-81 north, then take I-78 east into New Jersey. There, drivers can take I-287 and cross the Hudson River at the Tappan Zee Bridge. Or they can take the New Jersey Turnpike north to the George Washington Bridge, or stay on I-78 east to reach the Holland Tunnel.
My most frequently asked question about heading south from the D.C. area on I-395/95 is about the hours for the reversible High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. So let’s review the Virginia Department of Transportation rules.
There are two HOV lanes between D.C. and Dumfries, 30 miles away. On weekdays, HOV-3 (three or more people in a vehicle) is in effect northbound from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and southbound from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The HOV lanes are closed to all traffic during these hours:
* Weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and midnight to 2 a.m.
* Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The HOV lanes are open to all traffic during the following hours:
* Northbound from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. on weekdays; and from 4 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Monday.
* Southbound from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to midnight on weekdays; and from 6 p.m. Friday until 2 p.m. Saturday.