Heavy traffic: More than 850K will be driving in DC area Memorial Day weekend

Nearly a million people in the D.C. area will travel this upcoming weekend and most of them will be driving.

According to estimates from AAA, around 865,000 people will clog up ways out of town this weekend and travel farther than 50 miles, despite gas prices hitting record highs.

That’s up by about 3% from last year but still down by about 10% from pre-pandemic levels.

If you want to avoid the grueling traffic around D.C., wake up early.

AAA suggested you begin your trip before 6 a.m. or after 9 p.m. on Thursday, before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. on Friday, and before 10 a.m. over the weekend.

And it looks like many will start the weekend early: The worst traffic is expected to occur Thursday afternoon between 3:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.

“While the increase in auto travel is notable given the pain at the pump, a sharp jump in air travel and travel by other modes of transportation suggests gas prices may be motivating some travelers to consider alternatives to driving,” said Ragina Cooper Ali, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic in Maryland and D.C., in a statement.

While it’s only about 8% of travelers this year, 78,000 people are heading out of Reagan National Airport, Dulles International or Baltimore-Washington International Airport for the weekend. That’s about a 22% increase over last year.

AAA said to get to the airport at least two hours early and expect some long lines at security checkpoints.

Alternative transportation is seeing the biggest jump this year.

Around 15,000 area residents are hopping on a bus, train or cruise this year. That’s a whopping 213% increase over last year.

By the numbers, per AAA:

2022 Memorial Day Holiday Washington Metro Area Travelers
Total Travel Automobile Air Other

(Bus, Train, Cruise)

2022 (Forecast) 957,899 865,366 77,843 14,689
2021 (Actual) 905,727 837,343 63,702 4,682
2019 (Actual) 1,073,865 959,605 86,743 27,517
Change (2019 to 2022) -10.8% -9.8% -10.3% -46.6%
Change (2021 to 2022) 5.8% 3.3% 22.2% 213.7%

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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