There’s going to be an important difference for many drivers when they make their holiday getaways this month and next. A major change occurred over the summer at the bottleneck drivers heading northeast for holidays loved to hate: Highway-speed E-Z Pass lanes opened at the Interstate 95 toll plaza in Newark, Del.
These new lanes have vastly improved the flow of traffic. I can report favorably on that from as recently as Saturday morning, when I drove through the toll plaza on the northbound side.
Discussions about how to avoid the bottleneck at the toll plaza have become a holiday tradition here on the blog and in my annual getaway preview page in the Post.
I’m planning to write the guide for this Sunday’s Metro section, but I wonder if I need to focus so much on avoidance strategies for the Delaware toll plaza.
While the I-95 trip is bound to be better for many thousands of holiday drivers this fall, it’s not clear that traffic at the plaza will be free-flowing. I’ve heard nothing but good reports and have had nothing but good experiences with the plaza since the new lanes opened this summer.
But when it comes to holiday getaways, there’s Thanksgiving and then there’s everything else. This will be the first test of the new lanes during the extraordinary volumes experienced during the Thanksgiving getaway and return.
The new highway-speed E-ZPass lanes branch off to the left about a quarter mile before the toll plaza. That’s fine in normal traffic conditions. At the peak periods for Thanksgiving travel, traffic bound for the regular lanes of the toll plaza could back up so far that drivers heading for the new lanes are stuck back down the highway with everyone else before they can break out.
Even back in the summer when the Delaware Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of this long-awaited project, officials were curbing their enthusiasm about what might happen during the heaviest travel times. There may still be enough traffic congestion to test the patience of holiday drivers.