The Washington Post

Advice for northbound Thanksgiving getaways

Drivers on I-95 will see plenty of other drivers, but no sunshine on this Thanksgiving eve. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

Maryland State Highway Administrator Melinda B. Peters said on Tuesday that holiday drivers have spread out their trips a bit more in recent years, but Thanksgiving eve remains a big day for the routes through Maryland.

She had two messages: “Patience” was first and foremost. Wednesday’s weather conditions remain difficult. While it’s wise to have alternative routes in mind, there are no undiscovered shortcuts at holiday time, so drivers are likely to encounter congestion on any route.

Peters also emphasized the importance of having your plan together and your travel information updated before leaving home or office, which sounds obvious — until you get caught up in the last-minute rush to get out the door.

Maryland is part of the 511 travel information system. Use this link to see Maryland 511 information on weather, traffic incidents and average highway speeds throughout the state. You also can see what information is being displayed on the highway message boards along your route. While traveling, the information is available by dialing 511 and using the voice-recognition system — but have a passenger do this if you’re on the road.

I-95 alternatives

These are the routes we’ve featured in our discussions of Northeast alternatives to I-95.

1) Route 50 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, follow Route 301 to Route 896 (Churchtown/Boyds Corner roads) to Route 1 (toll) or Route 13. From there, drivers can reach I-295 and the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which connects with the New Jersey Turnpike north to the New York area. This route avoids the Delaware toll plaza and includes some nice Eastern Shore scenery.

2) Baltimore-Washington Parkway or I-95 to I-695 (Baltimore Beltway) 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 to I-80, picking up I-95 for the George Washington Bridge (toll eastbound), or continue north on I-287 to the New York Thruway and take the Tappan Zee Bridge (toll eastbound) across the Hudson River.

Other drivers like to head west before heading northeast. They take I-270 westbound, then pick up Route 15 in Frederick and drive north to the Harrisburg area, where they can link to I-81 and I-78.

These routes avoid Delaware and southern New Jersey.

Other travel tips

  • The Maryland Transportation Authority suggests these less-congested times for Thanksgiving week travel in the I-95 corridor: after 11 p.m. Wednesday; Thursday through Sunday, before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
  • Like many other states, Maryland suspends highway work through the Thanksgiving travel period, but Maryland’s work-zone speed cameras don’t take a holiday.
  • Some Northeast highway and bridge tolls have risen since last holiday season.
  • With the Maryland House rest area on I-95 temporarily closed for reconstruction, I-95 North drivers will need to go 14 more miles to reach the Chesapeake House in North East, Md.
  • The highway-speed E-ZPass lanes in the middle of the Newark, Del., toll plaza vastly improved I-95 travel. Reach them from the two lanes on the left side of the highway. All lanes should be open for the holiday period.
  • E-ZPass is like gold if you’re traveling during the holidays, but only if you look for the “E-ZPass only” lanes. Getting stuck in long lines for “E-ZPass or cash” practically negates the value of the pass.
  • Drivers who continue on to the New Jersey Turnpike may find themselves amid a slowdown between exits 6 and 9, where the turnpike is being widened to 12 lanes.
  • Some drivers cringe at mention of the George Washington Bridge, because it leads to the Cross Bronx Expressway, a nightmare at peak periods. But if you monitor traffic conditions and you’re driving off-peak, this may be the quickest way to New England.


Traffic information

Driving conditions in the Northeast include mixes of rain, ice and snow. Before leaving, check the latest from the Capital Weather Gang.

Delaware isn’t part of the 511 system but does provide traffic updates to travelers who tune their radios to WTMC (1380 AM). Delaware also has a Twitter feed with traffic updates: @DelawareDOT.

In range of New York, check all-news WCBS (880 AM) or WINS (1010 AM) for traffic reports every 10 minutes. For WCBS, it’s on the eights. For WINS, it’s on the ones.

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.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.
Next Story
Dana Hedgpeth · November 27, 2013

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.