Holiday travel with Lon Anderson of AAA Mid-Atlantic

Nov 23, 2010

Lon Anderson, director of public and government relations at AAA Mid-Atlantic, will be online Tuesday, Nov. 23, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss holiday travel by plane, train and automobile.

Hello everyone and thank you for joining me for this chat. I'm Lon Anderson, Managing Director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, and I look forward to find out your concerns before this very heavily traveled holiday.     

Mr. Anderson: I see your name in the papers often enough and you seem to be against speed cameras, red light cameras and most moves to enhance safety. Or have I missed something. I would expect a driving organization to want everyone to obey the laws. Or vote them out of the books. Am I misreading your positions?

Thanks for the question. Seems like you have misread a lot.  AAA is a traffic safety organization and I am proud of my efforts on behalf of motorists and pedestrian safety throughout the region.  I worked hard to get the speed camera law passed in Maryland, and the red light camera laws reinstated in Virginia.  But we do oppose juristictions that operate the systems for revenue rather than safety.  I and my organization have worked tirelessly to curb drunk driving, save teen lives, improve pedestrian safety, curb distracted driving and texting,  and that's just for starters.  Much of this effort is available on our website as well.  Thanks for your interest and please drive safely!

What is an alternative route around the Newark Del. toll plaza construction during the holiday travel period?

Hey Holiday Travel--Great question since the construction on that plaza could result in some horrendous back-ups--some are projecting tha back-ups could go to 20 miles.  We asked DelDot to consider opening the booths and allowing traffic to flow if back-ups become excessive but they have declined to do that. So, motorists heading up 95 BEWARE-- the toll booths at Newark could be trip spoilers.  Here's our suggestion to avioid them:  from the DC area, take I-95 north to Baltimore than take I-695 to I-83 to I-81 and then pick up I-78 into Newark, NJ.  This gets you completely around the toll plaza.  Thanks for the question and have a great and safe holiday!  

I am traveling South from Baltimore, through Virginia for Thanksgiving. Would I be better off leaving tonight or tomorrow? What time would you suggest?

Hello traveling south:  Given the option, I'd probably say go tonight.  Tomorrow will likely be heavy all day--we are projecting over a million Washingtonians heading out of town and 95% of them on the highway.  Traffic will build tomorrow with tomorrow afternoon probably being the heaviest.   Good luck and be safe!

Headed to N.J. -- can't decide if we should risk I-95 N around D.C. at about 8 a.m. or so -- or head over to our alt route 301 through Maryand? Takes a bit longer but at least you're moving most of the way!

Hey I-95 north--Great question.  At 8 am tomorrow you might be all right taking the Beltway. The bigger issue, as discussed in another question, is avoiding the expected back-ups at the DE toll plaza in Newark.  You might want to stay with 95 and follow the directions I suggested for getting around them.  Good luck and be safe!  

What is the best way to get from Baltimore to Western Fairfax County Wednesday afternoon? I assume it is best to avoid 95 and the Capital Beltway if at all possible. Thanks for the help.

Hello Balt. to FFX--You really are a glutton for punishment! T0morrow afternoon is likely one of the heaviest travel days of the year.  We are projecting about an 11% increase in travel this year over last with some 42.2 million Americans indicating they will be traveling, and more than 9 in 10 on the roads.

So, you are likely to hit heavy traffic regardless.  I'd head over I-70 to route 15 and take that south, but both of those roads could also back up tomorrow.  The earlier you leave the better.  Good luck!

I plan to leave Baltimore around 10:30 tomorrow morning. Realistically, how long will it take me to get to the NYC suburbs?

Hello realistic time--Talk about asking a tough question.  The crystal ball is sort of cloudy, but in normal times, 3 hours is it.  Tomorrow that trip could take considerably longer.  Our travel counselor said worst case could be 3 times that!!!  Hopefully you can do it in 4 or 5, but that all depends on crashes, weather, etc.  Good luck, and remember the object is getting there safely. 

Driving from D.C. to Hershey, Pa., on Thursday a.m. -- should we expect any problems? Thanks!

Hershey--Life should be like  a box of chocolates, so to speak. Thursday morning traffic should be light to normal, but not heavy.  Often Thanksgiving day is a good time to travel,  and I hope you find it so!  Be safe

Hi--How bad will the trip from Philly to D.C. be on Sunday? Is there a better or worse time to start on our way?

Hey Philly to DC -- In a word: BAD.  Sunday is the other big turkey when it comes to travel times, with so many wanting to be back at their desks and have kids back in school on Monday.  The earlier you leave Sunday, the better.  Look for I-95 south between Philly and DC to be extremely heavy with possibly huge back-ups at the DE toll plaza. Consider going west on 476 and then dropping south, perhaps.  Given that we aprojecting 989,000 folks traveling just on the roads in the DC area, traffic Sunday could be truly ugly.  but that toll plaza could be the real show stopper, every pun intended!  Good Luck, and please be safe!


AAA Mid-Atlantic has called for the Federal Transportation Fund to be used exclusively for roads--no transit funding at all. Do you therefore recommend that as many Americans as possible do their holiday travel by car?

Hello AAA's call--I always enjoy it when folks tell me what AAA policy is.  We do not and have not ever called for defunding transit.  Period. And if you can make alternate modes work for you this holiday, by all means, do so.  I'm on Amtrak almost every week myself. Have a great holiday, and get there safely, by what ever means you choose. We favor transportation choices.

We have to drive to Fredricksburg to drop someone off and then head back to the city before a Thursday morning flight? Does is make more sense to try to travel during Wednesday rush hour when there will be an HOV lane or wait until late Wednesday night? Should we just skip 95 and take Route 1?

Hello DC to Fredericksburg:  what a miserable stretch of road that is -- so unpredictable because traffic is so heavy on it 24-7.  AVOID WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON RUSH HOUR.  that has the potential of being one of the worst of the year, unless we get lucky and all of the Post's readers choose to avoid it.  Travel early Thursday morning should be good, the earlier the better.   Route 1, as you likely know, can be very good or very bad.  Good luck, but most importantly, be safe.   And remember when you enter the construction areas on i-95 and i-495, Orange Cones, No Phones.  Please pay specdia attention in sconstruction areas, even though construction will be suspended. 

Your Thanksgiving getaway questions by Dr. Gridlock

We are planning to drive to Ocean City after work tomorrow. Should we expect a back up on the Bay Bridge?

The Eastern Shore has become very popular for holiday getaways year round, and I would expect many will be crossing the Bridge.  Back-ups should not be summer-weeked like, but some delays are likely.  The earlier you can leave tomorrow, the better. You might consider leaving after dinner.   Good luck, and be safe!  

This is my first year taking Amtrak for Thanksgiving. I'll be leaving from Union Station at about 6 p.m. on Wednesday night. What time do you think I should get there, and what can I expect in terms of crowds, delays, etc? Thanks!

Hello Amtrak to NY--a great way to travel to NYC!! It will be crowded and often there are delays in the train schedules on holidays.  Check their website regulary to see if your train is on time or delayed.  Arriving an hour before should be fine. Extra time if you need to park. Trick is not being at the end of the line for boarding, so when the line begins to form for your train, pay attention.  All seats will be filled. If you have reserved seats on Acela, you don't have to worry as much.  Enjoy, and just think of those pat-downs you will miss at the airports.

Hello! We have a flight from Dulles to Charlotte Wednesday morning at 7:00 a.m. What time should we get to the airport? We don't plan on checking any bags. Many thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

Security lines even at 7 am could still take a while. I'd arrive by 5:30 am just to be safe, even though you are not taking luggage.  Tomorrow morning will be prime time at the airports. Hopefully you won't experience any boycotts.  Likely you won't need all of that time, but better to be safe--if you miss a flight tomorrow, your chance of catching another will be somewhere between slim-to-none.  Be safe!

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for speaking with us. I'm doing my first trip to DelMarVa for the holiday, leaving on Thursday a.m. Anything I should worry about with the Bay Bridge?

Hello DC--No--Early Thursday morning should be easy over the Bridge, heavier later in the morning and afternoon.

Well, the time really goes, and I want to thank everyone for all of your questions. Always hate to leave with so many questions still hanging, but our time is up!  Please remember to drive safely and hang up the phone, and please be well rested and sober before starting your drive. It's not how fast you get there, but how safely you arrive. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Lon Anderson and the AAA Mid-Atlantic Public Affairs staff.

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Lon Anderson
Lon Anderson is staff director of public and government relations at AAA Mid-Atlantic.
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