Record-breaking DC-area travel numbers expected over Memorial Day holiday

AAA expects 3.2 million people from D.C., Virginia and Maryland will travel between Thursday and Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.

“Of that number, 2.9 million will travel by automobile,” said John B. Townsend II, of AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Region-wide, those numbers are the highest since AAA began doing the holiday travel survey in 2000, and reflects a 3% growth in the number of people on the roads and a 5.1% jump in air travel compared with last year.

Hitting the road during off-peak hours is no guarantee of congestion free travel, according an analysis of transportation data done by INRIX on behalf of AAA.

“With so many people in this area traveling, that person will have the same plan as you,” Townsend said.

Leaving town on Thursday, for example, the projected travel time eastbound on U.S. 50 is expected to reach maximum congestion at 9 p.m., when traffic is expected to be moving at 34 mph.

Returning to the area on Monday, a delay of 307% is projected for U.S. 50 westbound, with a travel speed of 13.6 mph.

Peak travel times on each major area road, according to a study conducted by INRIX and AAA. (Courtesy INRIX/AAA)

When might be the best time to try cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge smoothly?

“Anything off-peak is better than the peak travel time. I know that doesn’t sound like the best advice, but it truly is,” said Lt. Colonel Kevin Anderson, chief of the operations bureau of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

Anderson recommends overnight hours, such as after 10 p.m. or in the morning hours between about 3 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Area law enforcement will be stepping up patrols over the holiday weekend and are asking drivers not to drive distracted.

“We want you to get there safely,” Anderson said. “Have patience, take your time and always use your seat belt in every position in the car.”

Even riding in the back seat, Anderson said you have to buckle up: “It will save your life.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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