Thanksgiving is about enjoying family, friends and way too much food. But you may want to watch out when the in-laws pull up later this week because there are bound to be some short tempers.
Chances are your loved ones are going to be out on the road with a million other people in order to get to the festivities.
Travel group AAA is predicting that more than 1 million people from the Washington area will be traveling for Thanksgiving, and about 95 percent of those people will be driving. It will be the biggest travel day since 2007, and travel during the week is expected to be up more than 11 percent since last year. And despite rising gas prices, many of those on the roads will be traveling 50 miles or more.
That means potential gridlock. Warnings are out to drivers to avoid several major thoroughfares. One of the biggest backups could be at the I-95 Toll Plaza in Newark, Del. Both Maryland and Delaware officials say the plaza could become an intense chokepoint with up to 20-mile backups.
That’s right, 20 miles.
“Here’s a tip for Washington-area residents hoping to avoid all that traffic on I-95 North and the toll plaza,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Valerie Taylor. “From Leesburg, Va., take I-270 to U.S. 15 North across the Point of Rocks Bridge. Take 15 to Interstate 76. Depending on how far you are going, take 76 to Interstate 81 all the way to Interstate 84 or Interstate 80 heading north.”
If you’re headed north, you can also take I-83 north of Baltimore to I-81 and then I-78 into New Jersey. And in Virginia, officials suggest using U.S. 301 instead of I-95 and instead of I-66, use I-70 and U.S. 340 or the Leesburg Bypass to U.S. 29.
Only about 35,000 area residents are expected to get out of town on a plane this year, but that is still an increase of about 3 percent from last year. And getting to any of the three local airports is going to be a little easier thanks to Metro. Additional trains will be running to Ronald Reagan National Airport, and more Metro buses will be running to BWI and Dulles International airports.
Just keep in mind that Metro will be on a Sunday schedule on Thanksgiving Day, opening at 7 a.m. and closing at midnight. Friday, Metro will go back to a regular weekday schedule, and on Sunday Metro plans to monitor travel to see if extra trains will be needed.
Whatever way you decide to go this holiday week, make sure to pack your patience. More than 42 million people are expected to travel, and it’s all for the same reason: to give thanks.
Just keep that in mind if you get caught in a 20-mile backup.
Check our Traffic Section for help in planning your route and to check area traffic cams.