For Thanksgiving travelers, a crowded return

November 27, 2006|By Chris Emery | Chris Emery,sun reporter

Guy and Florence Lab got a nasty surprise yesterday - American holiday traffic.

The Canadian couple were traveling from Quebec City to their winter home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but forgot that Americans would be on the roads in huge numbers after Thanksgiving.

"Since it's Sunday, we thought the roads would be quiet, but there's been heavy, heavy traffic," said Guy Lab, taking a break at a rest area just south of Columbia on Interstate 95.

The Labs and other motorists traveling along I-95 reported crowded highways all along the East Coast yesterday and long back-ups between Baltimore and the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Air and rail travelers, however, reported few delays.

Lab said he and his wife had just spent more than two hours waiting for police to clear an accident near the Delaware bridge that brought traffic to a standstill.

Mel Edmonds, who'd also stopped at the rest area, said he and his wife were caught in the mess as they drove home to Jacksonville, N.C., from their daughter's house in Allentown, Pa.

"I swore on our way up there, before Thanksgiving, that I'd never do this drive again," he said. "But once we got to my daughter's house, it was worth it."

After escaping the snarl in the southbound lanes yesterday, he drove past another accident that had clogged the northbound side of I-95 for about 20 miles, he said.

Dan Preziosi was headed to his home in West Milford, N.J., after visiting in-laws in Sarasota, Fla., stopping at the rest area to let his 2-year-old son Danny and the family dog stretch their legs. He said he'd already been delayed around the Capital Beltway.

"Whenever we do this trip, there's a problem around the Delaware bridge," he said.

While I-95 was choked in places, traffic was moving smoothly through the Fort McHenry Tunnel and across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the Maryland Transportation Authority said.

At midday, security-screening lines at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport were short, and most flights were reported on time. And flying into BWI was not as bad as expected for several travelers interviewed there.

"There were no long lines - nothing," said Stephen Selzler, who was returning to Baltimore after visiting his family in Indiana. "I was really surprised."

Selzler, a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, said he wore no belt and put everything from his pockets into his bag so he could get through airport security checks faster.

"I also made a conscious effort to not carry any liquids," he said, referring to Federal Aviation Administration limits on such items.

Peter Phillips, an Army private stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, was not so fortunate as he was among the passengers who had to switch planes at New York's LaGuardia Airport due to technical problems, he said.

"We were out on the runway when they told us we had to go back to the terminal," he said, after making it to BWI. "It took about an hour, but it was clear sailing from then on."

The FAA reported few airport delays. Most trains were also on schedule, according to officials at Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station. They said the trains were completely booked.

Charles Gibney of Hagerstown said the train he and his wife took from New York was full. "They told us not to put anything on the empty seat beside us," Gibney said, "because it wouldn't be empty for long."

chris.emery@baltsun.com

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