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The impossible dream: Bypassing I-95 between DC and Richmond

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Dec 4th, 2013, 06:11 AM
  #1
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The impossible dream: Bypassing I-95 between DC and Richmond

A few months ago, I made the drive south from Philadelphia to Florida. I hit the DC-Richmond corridor on a Sat. am, and it was a painful stretch of driving.

Any ideas or tips on avoiding it, or the best strategies as far as time, HOV lanes, etc., if it can't be avoided?

Route 301 looks like a possibility, but from experience I know that's not a lot of fun, either. And there's I-81, but I'd have to go way west to pick it up.

Ann ideas?
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Dec 4th, 2013, 06:38 AM
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We took Route 1 once when there was a wreck on I-95 . . slow with lots of little towns, but much more interesting than I-95

We tend to avoid the interstates when we travel, so it was a planned re-route anyway
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Dec 4th, 2013, 06:43 AM
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It's a real pain. But you did it right. If you think it was bad on Saturday morning, just be glad you weren't doing it late Friday afternoon!

I've done I-81, which is nicer, but way out of the way. I'm not sure you'll save much time, just some frustration.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 07:08 AM
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No kidding NeoP.

I find 81 as frustating as 95 in some areas. I think the best strategy is to time it as best as possible.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 07:14 AM
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Would a midmorning weekday be a good time? (Well, OK, there is no good time, but you know what I mean.)

Some people I know try to time it so that they're on that stretch of 95 after 10 pm, but I'm not up for late-night driving.

We have friends living in No. Va who say half the state is ready to storm the Capitol with pitchforks over the ongoing bottleneck between DC and Richmond.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 07:29 AM
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I made the drive from NYC last year, and will do so again this month. Last year we detoured along I-81, both to and from Florida. It worked out well. This time we will drive via the Delmarva peninsula. Perhaps not the quickest, but we will avoidthe dreaded I-95 corridor.

There is some pertinent info here:

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...n-va-nc-sc.cfm

And from last year:

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...ea-islands.cfm
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Dec 4th, 2013, 08:01 AM
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Would a midmorning weekday be a good time? (Well, OK, there is no good time, but you know what I mean.)
__
Heading south I think it would be.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 08:12 AM
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The problem with that part of I95 south (mostly DC to Fredericksburg) is local volume as well as interstate traffic. Unless there is an accident, things typically thin out after F'burg.

The best time to be on that stretch of road going south is early morning, 5-8 am. Weekdays or weekends. (exception being summer weekends when the added variable of beach traffic has congestions in place by 7 am)

Otherwise as mentioned Route 1 is an option unless there an accident on I95. While long in places, a bad day on 301 doesn't compete with a bad day on I95. The truckers on I81 can be pretty intimidating but it's usually moving traffic.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 08:39 AM
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Janet: Thanks.

The trucker thing doesn't bother me; just not sure about going that far west to pick up 81.

An aside: I think it's funny that people are using Route 1 as an option. When my father made this drive years ago, while they were completing 95, people like him used to say, "I can't wait till 95 is done so I never have to use Route 1 again." And here we are.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 09:07 AM
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It's all relative, vincenzo.

You're welcome.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 12:48 PM
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I drove from Richmond to Boston on Monday. Having seen the construction related backups on the northbound side of 95 from Quantico to 495, I decided to take 301.

It looked like a great decision until I got to the Potomac Bridge. They are re- decking the bridge, whatever that means, and traffic only moves in one direction at a time. From the bridge to Waldorf was constant strip malls with heavy, heavy local traffic. In short, it took me three hours from Richmond to Baltimore instead of the two and a half it usually takes. So not 301 until the bridge is finished.

The last two times we have come south on 495, we have hit 95 in late morning, and the high speed lanes have been open for Richmond traffic from just before the junction on the east side of the city all the way to Quantico and maybe a bit beyond. This has been great, though the road surfaces are rough, they are narrower than normal, and you do have to watch out for construction vehicles.

So how do you find out when the express lanes switch from inbound to outbound? I don't know, but it is worth knowing. We have generally found them express southbound after ten-ish and express northbound before that, and it is well worth timing your trip to meet those time frames.

I contrast this with the construction on the Jersey Turnpike, which has been handled much better. On only one of our trips (northbound) did we have significant slowdowns between exit 7 and exit 8A.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 01:02 PM
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Southbound I95 HOV/express lanes are open noon to 3:30pm. (noon was recently moved from 1pm to help relieve daily congestion). For afternoon rush beware, however, that big league congestion on the express lanes is very typical in the last hour-ish as traffic feeds back onto the regular southbound highway. State Police position themselves there and have been known to ticket late stayers on the HOV lanes.

A 24 hour toll expressway for that part of I95 is expected to open in early 2015.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 02:50 PM
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Ack: I had the same experience on 301. Sounds as if weekday midmorning HOVs southbound might be the best bet.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 04:02 PM
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>>Sounds as if weekday midmorning HOVs southbound might be the best bet.<<

HOV isn't open SOUTH bound weekdays at mid morning.

HOV NORTH bound is open until 11 am weekdays.

I'm obviously on ignore for you, but for anyone else reading this with a similar question, at least they will have correct information.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 04:05 PM
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H E L I C O P T E R.

I always had better luck going around DC on the 95 side of the Beltway than on the 495 side.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 06:20 PM
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Totally depends on what time of day you travel through the area and whether or not you are actually willing to get up really early to do so.
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Dec 4th, 2013, 10:15 PM
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As ekscrunchy said, why not go via the Delmarva Peninsula?

Just out of curiosity, how would it work going via Frederick (MD) down US 15 and then cutting over to I-95 via one of

VA 234 (north of Gainesville)

I-66 (at Gainesville) and then VA 234

US 17 (south of Warrenton)

US 522 (at Culpepper) and then either US 33 or I-64?
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Dec 5th, 2013, 04:27 AM
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BigRuss, I don't get your distinction. I-95 and 495 are the same from CollegePark to Springfield. I agree that the eastern Beltway is better than the western Beltway unless there is a football game.

obxgirl, I think you have provided the information I didn't have, which is great, but they changed the HOV closure northbound to 10 AM in August or September.

The southbound lanes are now open to anyone from noon to 3:30, at which point they become HOV again until 6.

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fcdot/lanes.htm

Northbound, Quantico to 495 after 9. Southbound, 495 to Quantico after 12 and before 3:30.

I don't know how you all keep track of it!
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Dec 5th, 2013, 04:34 AM
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Yeah, I a back again because it is such a hard problem

New question for locals: is there some way to go _through_ the city?

Back when they were still working on the bridge, I used to stay on 295 until it joined I-295 and avoided most of the 495 backups.

But what about all those parkways on the west side of the city: would taking the Cabin John, Clara Barton, and whatever zips past Georgetown past the Pentagon and the airport be a possibility?

None of these help with Virginia, of course, though my son found something that takes you from 95 toward Dulles then lets you get back toward 495 maybe somewhere near 270. But he want driving, so he doesn't remember the details.
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Dec 5th, 2013, 04:52 AM
  #20
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With all due respect to the rest of you (especially obx), BigRuss seems to have the best, least complicated idea.
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