Traveling this Fourth of July? Tips to help you through the traffic crush

It’s hard to predict just how intense the July Fourth getaway traffic will be around the D.C. region this year, but some tried-and-true strategies can help ease drivers’ pain.

Because last summer was lost to the COVID-19 pandemic, AAA Mid-Atlantic expects more than 1.3 million people in our area to travel at least 50 miles from home this weekend. That would be the largest number ever recorded by the auto club.

“It is reasonable to assume there will be congestion in the usual spots, but the magnitude of those delays is still an open question,” said WTOP traffic reporter Dave Dildine. “There may be millions of people traveling for this getaway, but that travel is likely underway already, and so it may be spread out over a longer period of time.”

He says drivers should expect delays if they’re out during the day anytime from now all the way through the holiday, but there will be a point where traffic will likely decrease in some spots.

“Traffic around and inside the Beltway tends to get lighter as we close in on the federal holiday, whereas traffic tends to get heavier on the thru highways,” Dildine said.

So when should D.C. area residents hit the road?

“The best time to leave is the most inconvenient time to leave: late night, early morning,” said Dildine.

AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts the best times to cross the Bay Bridge this weekend will be:

  • Friday, July 2: before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 3: before 6 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 4: before 8 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
  • Monday, July 5: before 6 a.m. and after 5 p.m.

It’s also important to check the weather before heading for the Bay Bridge. “Afternoon and evening rain is likely at times through the end of the week, which means delays are likely because you can’t run two-way traffic at the Bay Bridge when it’s wet,” Dildine said.

Other things that may affect the weekend travel picture are harder to predict.

“I think a lot of people may be looking for an excuse to escape, but the type of destinations that they may be going to might be a little bit different. They might be more like day trips,” said Dildine.

Some lucky people may have hit the road weeks ago, and don’t plan to return anytime soon, Dildine said. “It’s possible…people are teleworking from their vacation destinations like Ocean City, like the Outer Banks, like Deep Creek Lake.”

Be sure to check in with WTOP and throughout the weekend for traffic and weather on the eights and when it breaks.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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