Delaware warns drivers about Delaware

Holiday motorists urged to find ways to avoid dreaded toll plaza

November 19, 2010|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

This year, even Delaware is warning motorists about the dreaded Delaware toll plaza.

Maryland's eastern neighbor has put drivers on alert that they could face significant construction delays approaching its Newark Toll Plaza along Interstate 95 at the height of Thanksgiving travel.

In a notice on its website, the Delaware Department of Transportation took the unusual step of urging motorists to find a way around paying a $4 toll each way for the privilege of using the Delaware Turnpike.

"Due to the on-going I-95 Newark Toll Plaza Reconstruction, reduced toll lane access and altered traffic patterns will greatly impact Thanksgiving Holiday travelers," the notice said. "These factors, combined with the anticipated increase of holiday traffic, will result in serious backups and travel delays, starting as early as Tuesday morning, Nov. 23 and lasting through Monday evening, Nov. 29."

For many years, the Delaware toll plaza has been one of the worst bottlenecks in the Northeast. The state has undertaken a project intended to relieve the waiting at the plaza, but until it is completed, construction is expected to complicate matters.

The Maryland Transportation Authority amplified the warning Thursday, telling motorists that the northbound lines at the Delaware tollbooths could extend as far as Harford County next Tuesday and Wednesday for what would be about a 20-mile backup.

The Maryland agency also warned drivers that U.S. 40's Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge over the Susquehanna River will not be a good alternative for holiday traffic because it is operating with only one lane open in each direction during preservation work. U.S. 40 runs parallel to I-95 in that corridor, and the Hatem Bridge normally has two lanes open in each direction.

Motorists heading for the Philadelphia area could avoid even the worst-case backups by using U.S. 1 and crossing the Susquehanna on the Conowingo Dam. That would avoid the $5 Maryland toll on I-95.

If the jams are as bad as predicted, motorists heading to New York or New Jersey may find themselves in a long backup to reach the Elkton exit that leads to a popular tollbooth bypass through Delaware.

Drivers heading in that direction may be more likely to avoid backups if they get off I-95 soon after crossing the Susquehanna and reach eastbound U.S. 40 via either southbound Route 222 or Route 272. Once in Delaware on U.S. 40, it is a short drive to reconnect with Interstate 95 via northbound Delaware 896 without having to pay that state's toll.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

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