He said the authority will deploy variable message signs to tell drivers how long the bridge backups are before they get caught up in the congestion. If the backups are less than 10 miles, a motorist will still be able to exit I-95 at Route 272 at North East. If it extends any farther, drivers could get off the interstate just north of the Susquehanna at Perryville.
Buck said state highway officials have already sent crews to U.S. 40, U.S. 1 and Route 7 in Northeastern Maryland to adjust the timing of the traffic signals to handle the expected surge in traffic. He said the SHA is also using variable message signs in the Washington area to encourage drivers to use an alternate route to the Northeast via the Bay Bridge and U.S. 301 on the Eastern Shore.
For some motorists, avoiding the Delaware tolls is a way of life. Some routinely get off at Elkton at Route 279 and take a route north of I-95 through Delaware. That could be a dubious strategy this weekend because if the backups are as bad as predicted, it could take a long wait to reach that exit.
Others give the toll plaza an even wider berth and avoid Delaware entirely, taking routes through Pennsylvania to the Northeast. Travelers to the Philadelphia area could avoid the Delaware mess by taking U.S. 1. Some heading for destinations farther up the Eastern Seaboard choose to travel up Interstate 83 through Pennsylvania, a strategy that can also avoid the heavy tolls on the I-95 corridor.
Any money saved on tolls could be applied to the cost of gasoline, which has risen in recent weeks to a Maryland average of $2.87 a gallon for regular gas. That may be high compared with a month ago, but it's less than a traveler is likely to encounter in New York or parts of Pennsylvania, where drivers are paying more than $3 a gallon.
In addition to the Delaware Turnpike, AAA has identified several other highways in the region where it expects serious congestion. In Maryland, they include Interstate 270 and the stretch of the Capital Beltway between I-95 and the American Legion Bridge.
In Virginia, some of the worst traffic is expected on the roads leading out of Washington, including Interstates 395 and 66. To avoid the backups that typically slow traffic between Washington and Richmond, Averella said, AAA is recommending an alternate route along U.S. 301 through Southern Maryland.
Many travelers have chosen to put thoughts of tolls, gas prices and congestion behind them and are taking a train to their Thanksgiving destinations. Steve Kulm, a spokesman for Amtrak, said the railroad is expecting too carry 127,000 passengers on Wednesday alone — 2,000 more than last year.
Amtrak has added capacity along the Northeast Corridor and on other highly traveled routes. Kulm said. But the rail options are narrowing as the holiday gets close. Tickets for some destinations, such as Lynchburg, Va., are sold out for Wednesday — as are many of the afternoon trains in the Northeast Corridor.
Kulm said that while there were still seats available on many trains as of late Monday, passengers should act to reserve seats for holiday travel as early as possible Tuesday.