With Memorial Day getaway out of the way, some weekend congestion remains

Listen live for the latest traffic and weather updates during Memorial Day weekend on the 8s on WTOP

More than 1 million people from the D.C. metro area are expected to travel 50-plus miles this Memorial Day weekend, with plenty of them getting an early start Thursday and Friday.

The vast majority are traveling by car — more than last year and just shy of pre-pandemic numbers, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic’s estimation.

With many people having left last weekend and earlier this week, the transition from getaway to weekend traffic was well underway around 4 p.m. Friday. While there was congestion on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 95, it was not as slow as it was earlier in the day.

WTOP’s Scott Gelman was checking in Friday with drivers at a rest stop off I-95 in Dale City. Most people reported some traffic, but were pleasantly surprised things weren’t worse. Jane Holland was driving down from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to Henrico, Virginia.

“I’m amazed. So far, it’s been alright,” she said. “I think the northbound, I’ve seen a few tie-ups. They’re going a little slow. But southbound, there was one spot, but I got on the express lane and it went fine.”

On the Capital Beltway in Virginia, the state’s department of transportation has suspended construction projects for the weekend to help holiday traffic run smoothly. The WTOP Traffic Center reported normal volume Friday afternoon.

Anne Arundel County firefighters briefly responded to a brush fire on Route 50 near the South River around 3:30 p.m. Eastbound traffic on Route 50 was slow near the Severn River, but drivers were making good time from the Bay Bridge onto the Eastern Shore.

Overall, traffic volumes were decreasing on the major highways as of 4 p.m. and traffic congestion throughout most of the region was no worse than an average Friday in May.

There won’t be a Friday rush hour and traffic is expected to improve markedly by early evening, barring incidents.

Of the D.C. region’s 1 million travelers, AAA projects about 85,000 of them will be taking to the skies. So, whether you plan to fly in to or out of BWI Marshall, Dulles International or Reagan National airports, pack plenty of patience as many other people have similar plans this Memorial Day weekend.

At Dulles, Friday morning flyers were picking up their boarding passes at ticket kiosks. Many of them arrived extra early for their flights, anticipating the additional time it can take to find vehicle parking and passing through security during busy travel periods.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reported available parking spots were difficult to locate. He suggested once your vehicle is parked, save a photo of its location on your mobile phone. That way, it will be easier to find when you return.

Some passengers told Augenstein they were heading out to warm holiday destinations, while others were heading to colder areas. One family said they came out to drop off their teenage daughters for a summer filled with volunteering in Orlando.

WTOP's Neal Augenstein spoke to passengers at Dulles International Airport heading out for Memorial Day weekend.

The number of people going through U.S. airports hit pandemic-era highs last weekend, and those records are almost certain to be broken over the Memorial Day holiday, according to The Associated Press.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it expects a busy day Friday, with Monday’s Memorial Day being the busiest of the long holiday weekend. The Transportation Security Administration also said it expects to screen 10 million travelers between Friday and Monday, a 14% increase over the holiday in 2022 and slightly more than in 2019.

Nationwide, an estimated 42.3 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this Memorial Day weekend. That’ll be an increase of 2.7 million people from last year for what AAA Mid-Atlantic is projecting to be the third-most traveled Memorial Day weekend since 2000.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein, Dave Dildine, Steve Dresner, Scott Gelman and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

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