Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said Tuesday that it “used to be the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was the really difficult travel day with high volumes on area roadways."
But more recently, transportation watchers have seen a surge of people leaving on Tuesday, adding congestion to roadways.
“You’re going to see a ton of people from midday Tuesday until the evening and into tomorrow, too,” Gischlar said Tuesday morning. He said roadwork and lane closures on major highways are being suspended until next week, and there will be additional crews on hand to help deal with breakdowns and fender benders.
Still, he said, travelers should factor in extra travel time and pack patience. On an interstate, he said, when there’s a hiccup in the flow of traffic — every minute of a problem takes another four minutes to subside.
At the Virginia Department of Transportation, Ellen Kamilakis, a department spokeswoman, said that Tuesday midday typically is when “things ramp up” in the D.C. region.
AAA is predicting that 54.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from their homes, making it nearly a 5 percent increase over last year.
Experts at AAA have said the 2018 holiday will have the “highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years.” They predict roughly 2.5 million more people will go via roads, skies, rails and waterways, compared with last year.
Traffic analysts predict the most congested cities, including in the D.C. region, could be “as much as four times longer than a normal trip,” according to AAA. In the D.C. region, AAA says the traffic delays are likely to hit on area roadways between 5 and 7 p.m. Tuesday, and it could take two and a half times as long to get around parts of the Capital Beltway.
Travel is also expected to peak on area roadways Wednesday after 3 p.m.
Already, there were signs of travelers hitting area roadways.
Air travelers can expect long lines and busy airports.
On Tuesday morning at Reagan National, the security line appeared reasonable, and for now only the Starbucks line was longer. But travel experts warn that will change, and fast, throughout Tuesday and into Wednesday.