thanksgiving traffic

Northbound traffic was heavy yesterday on U.S. 1 and Interstate 95 at Massaponax as motorists returned home from Thanksgiving. Traffic was heavy on Sunday afternoon traveling northbound on both Route 1 (foreground) and on I95 (background). Many people were returning home from a long Thanksgiving weekend. (photo by suzanne carr) ------ 3 col. full Color Page A1

Hitting the road for Thanksgiving? Then plan on having plenty of company.

The auto club AAA is forecasting the most Thanksgiving travelers, heading at least 50 miles, since 2005. That year stands as AAA’s heaviest Thanksgiving travel period since it began tracking holiday traffic in 2000.

More than 55 million people are expected to travel to enjoy the holiday, 1.6 million more than last year, according to AAA. Of those, more than 49 million are expected to drive.

According to transportation analytics company INRIX, Wednesday is expected to be the worst day to drive in the Washington, D.C., area, with “trips taking as much as four times longer than normal in major metro areas,” AAA said in a news release.

INRIX pegged 3–5 p.m. as the worst time to drive in the D.C. area.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, traffic on northbound Interstate 95 traffic between Richmond and Fredericksburg is expected to be heaviest on Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Peak traffic on southbound I–95 in the Fredericksburg area is expected between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

VDOT will suspend most lane closures on interstates and major roads from noon Wednesday until noon Monday.

While Wednesday is expected to be the worst day to hit the road, traffic likely will be congested all week.

“With record levels of travelers, and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays,” INRIX analyst Trevor Reed said in the AAA release.

To help handle the increased traffic volume, the Interstates 95 and 395 express lanes schedule will be adjusted.

On Wednesday, the toll lanes heading south will open about noon. On Thursday, the express lanes heading north will open about 2 a.m. and remain open all day.

There is a bonus for drivers. Gas is cheaper than last Thanksgiving.

While Virginia gas prices have risen nearly 2 cents per gallon recently, according to Gasbuddy, drivers will still pay less than a year ago, when prices at the pump in the state were 3 cents higher.

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Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

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