Latest Thanksgiving Travel Outlook In VA, DC: Busy Roads, Heavy Rain – Greater Alexandria, VA Patch

Latest Thanksgiving Travel Outlook In VA, DC: Busy Roads, Heavy Rain – Greater Alexandria, VA Patch

VIRGINIA — Thanksgiving is shaping up to be one of the busiest anticipated in the DC region and across the U.S., but drivers heading out early could face hazardous weather conditions.

AAA predicts nearly 1.3 million DC area residents will make long-distance trips of 50 miles or more over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a five-day period from Wednesday, Nov. 22 to Sunday, Nov. 26. That marks the third-highest Thanksgiving forecast for the DC region since AAA began predicting holiday travel numbers. The highest travel record was 1.4 million in 2005, while 2019 marked the second highest.

Busy Roads Anticipated

Find out what’s happening in Greater Alexandriawith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Most of the DC area travelers — over 1.25 million — will be traveling by car. Another 90,000 are expected to travel by plane, and over 16,000 will use other transportation like buses, trains or cruises.

In all of Virginia, AAA predicts nearly 1.43 million travelers over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. That’s below from the pre-pandemic level of 1.51 million in 2019 but up from 1.41 million last Thanksgiving.

Find out what’s happening in Greater Alexandriawith free, real-time updates from Patch.

In Virginia, 1.3 million drivers will represent the majority of Thanksgiving travelers, while over 98,000 will travel by plane and over 24,000 will take other transportation such as buses, trains or cruises.

In the DC metro region, peak congestion is expected to peak around 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22 on the northbound Baltimore-Washington Parkway between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, AAA said. To travel that route, drivers and passengers ought to expect to spend 1 hour 13 minutes hours in the car that day, a 71 percent increase.

There are several anticipated heavy congestion areas in Virginia, according to historical traffic data. The Virginia Department of Transportation expects heavy congestion in northbound and southbound Interstate 95 in the Fredericksburg area. Higher traffic volumes tend to happen on weekdays before holidays, VDOT says. Although the data doesn’t incorporate the recent extension of I-95 Express Lanes from south of Route 610/Garrisonville Road in Stafford to Route 17/Exit 133 or new northbound lanes at the Rappahannock River, heavy congestion is still likely.

The other areas anticipated to have heavy congestion include northbound Interstate 81 between Pulaski and the Rockingham area through Sunday and Interstate 64 in the Hampton Roads area due to construction activities, including the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.

VDOT has a full travel trends map to predict the best and worst travel times around the major roadways.

Overall, the busiest day in the U.S. to drive will be Wednesday, Nov. 22, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. For those looking to reduce their time in traffic, the best time to drive that day will be before 11 a.m.

Here are the best — and worst — overall times to drive, according to AAA.

Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 23

  • Worst: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Best: Before 10 a.m. or after 5 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 24

  • Worst: Noon – 4 p.m.
  • Best: Before 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 25

  • Worst: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Best: Before noon

Sunday, Nov. 26

  • Worst: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Best: Before noon

Gas Prices Down

While the roads are expected to be busy, drivers will fill up their gas tanks for less than last year.

“For driving travelers, there’s some great news to be grateful for, heading into the holiday,” said Ragina Cooper Ali, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Gas prices are trending nearly 30 cents less than last year in the D.C. region and have dropped five cents in the last week, which will be welcomed news to the more than 1.25 million regional residents who plan to drive this upcoming holiday.”

Tuesday’s gas price average in Virginia is $3.124, down from $3.426 a year ago, according to AAA data. DC’s gas price average is $3.487, down from $3.744 this time last year.

The dip in gas prices is due to gas demand and oil prices declining, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. AAA expects prices to continue to decline ahead of Thanksgiving if demand and oil prices remain low.

Check for the lowest gas prices in your area using Gas Buddy.

Air Travel Rebounds

Travel by lane is rebounding from the pandemic, as AAA predicts nearly 90,000 DC area residents will fly during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. That’s an 8 percent increase from last year but 11 percent lower than the pre-pandemic level of over 101,000 in 2019.

“The local Thanksgiving travel projections are consistent with AAA’s national travel trends,” said Ali. “Travelers should expect – and plan for – both the roadways and airports to be as busy as ever in our region, reflecting the continued desire to get away that AAA and the tourism industry have seen throughout this year.”

Other travel by bys, train or cruise has been slower to rebound. Although over 16,000 DC area residents are expected to use these travel methods — 16 percent more than last year — this projection is 36 percent lower than 2019’s travel level.

Safety Tips

Drivers should also brace for heavy rain, winds and poor visibility as a storm passes through Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. A hazardous weather outlook is in effect in Northern Virginia and DC, as isolated flooding could happen in the Baltimore-Washington area Tuesday evening. Forecasters expect moderate to minor coastal flooding along the Chesapeake Bay and tidal Potomac River.

Virginia State Police are urging drivers to be aware of road conditions and give other vehicles space. In Virginia last year, 24,633 crashes caused by drivers following another vehicle too closely, representing 11 percent of all Virginia roadway crashes. There were seven fatal crashes from vehicles following too closely in 2022.

“Giving the correct distance between you and the vehicle in front of you provides a driver with enough time to safely react in an emergency situation,” said Capt. J.P. Koushel, Virginia State Police’s Fairfax Division commander. “Even when it’s not raining, having enough stopping distance between you and the vehicle in front of you is critical when it comes to avoiding a crash.”

To help with busier roads, VDOT will suspend many highway work zones and lane closures on interstates and major roads from noon on Wednesday, Nov. 22 until noon on Monday, Nov. 27. Semi-permanent work zones may remain during this time.

In Northern Virginia, I-66 Inside the Beltway rush hours tolls will be lifted on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 23. Reversible lane schedules may be impacted on the I-95 and I-395 Express Lanes during the holiday travel period.

In Hampton Roads, HOV restrictions and Express Lanes tolls will be lifted on Thursday, Nov. 23 on the I-64/I-264/I-564 HOV Diamond Lanes and 64 Express Lanes. During the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Project, VDOT encourages drivers going between the Hampton Roads Peninsula and Southside to use alternate routes like the I-664 Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel, the Route 17 James River Bridge, the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry or I-95.

Follow for real-time road conditions.

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