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The worst time to leave for Memorial Day weekend

In this file photo, vehicles cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on U.S. Routes 50 and 301 near Sandy Point State Park. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — If you are planning to hit the road for the Memorial Day weekend, be forewarned: Friday is no longer the busiest day for your road trip.

“Thursday is the new Friday, and Thursday is every bit as bad as Friday on holiday weekends,” said Bob Immler in the WTOP Traffic Center.

His experience is backed up by an “unprecedented amount of data.”

Transportation planner Ben Hampton, with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, analyzed five years of travel speed information collected from GPS software to help drivers avoid a sea of red.

“Thursday has actually shown to be really unpredictable,” he said. “In 2014, the Thursday before Memorial Day was actually the worst travel day of the entire year. It’s sort of risky, I guess, to pick Thursday afternoon because of that variability.”

Hampton adds that the following year, there was less traffic on Thursday.

“Every year, people try to time-shift to avoid what they encountered the last year,” said Dave Dildine in the WTOP Traffic Center.

If you’re leaving on Thursday, you should leave before noon. Otherwise, leave on Saturday or after midnight, Dildine said.

Weather will likely not be a factor, which should help drivers headed toward the beaches on U.S. 50.

“It’s probably not going to rain. That means eastbounders get three total lanes to work with. There will be delays and it’ll be congested, but it wont be as bad as if it were a soggy start to the Memorial Day weekend,” Dildine said.

In each of the last five years, Thursday afternoon saw worse traffic overall than Friday; on average it took 50 percent to 100 percent longer to reach one's destination than on a day with no traffic. Pretty consistently for the last five years, the Thursday afternoon rush has ended around 8:00 P.M., with traffic not picking up again until around 11:00 A.M. on Friday.  (Courtesy Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments)
In each of the last five years, Thursday afternoon saw worse traffic overall than Friday; on average it took 50 percent to 100 percent longer to reach one’s destination than on a day with no traffic. Pretty consistently for the last five years, the Thursday afternoon rush has ended around 8 p.m., with traffic not picking up again until around 11 a.m. on Friday. (Courtesy Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments)

 

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