Key Points

  • Traffic on area roads and highways will be at its worst late Tuesday afternoon at 4:45-6 p.m.
  • All of the area’s transit agencies will be operating on a special Thanksgiving holiday schedule.
  • There will be major disruptions on the Red Line starting Saturday and lasting through the second week of December.

It’ll be off to the races this week, as millions of motorists flood Washington-area roads and highways, train stations and airports for the holiday.

Here are simple tips to get home (or home to grandma’s house), based on sources including Google and advice from reliable resources including the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), AAA Mid-Atlantic and Transurban.

Getting to the Airport

God help you. Getting to Reagan National, Dulles International or Baltimore-Washington International Airports will be rough, with heavier-than-normal traffic. Coupled with new security checkpoint procedures, in which travelers are required to remove their outer garments, the normal holiday hassles of air travel might be just a bit more aggravating.

MWAA offers several simple tips:

Arrive early: Travelers are urged to arrive at the airport at least 2 to 2 1/2 hours before domestic flights and 3 hours before international flights to allow enough time for ground transportation, parking, luggage check-in and security screening.

Check to see if your flight is departing on time: Every airline has an online tool to check the arrival of the plane you’ll be flying in.

Consider using Metro to get to National (and even Dulles): The only thing that separates you from the Metro station with the terminal area at National is an elevator ride and pedestrian bridge. A Metrorail trip to Dulles would require a stop at the West Falls Church station and connecting to the Washington Flyer Bus to Dulles. The transfer is a pain, but it beats fishing through traffic on your own, then trying to find parking.

Plan ahead for parking:

  • At Dulles, there is ample economy parking in lots located near the entrance to the airport which provide the largest supply of spaces at the most economical rate. Free airport shuttle buses operate between the economy lots to the terminals. For parking information at Dulles, call 703-572-4500.
  • At Reagan National, parking is expected to be in great demand over the holiday period. Travelers who want to drive and park at National are asked to call ahead to check availability of parking. Receive up-to-the-minute parking information by calling 703-417-PARK (7275).
  • And remember to note where you parked your car before you rush off to the airport! Mass consumption of turkey and bourbon might make you forget a few things over the weekend.

Roads and Highways

In the metro D.C. area, traffic on the roads and highways will be at its worst between 4:45 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday. Motorists should plan ahead and adjust their departure times accordingly—leaving early morning Wednesday, or Thursday and Sunday mornings around 6 a.m.

AAA Mid-Atlantic estimates 1,123,500 Washington metro area residents, or 90 percent of all local Thanksgiving Day travelers traveling at least 50 miles by automobile, creating commuting delays that will surge by a factor of two during that Wednesday afternoon window. The top three hotspots in the region are:

  1. Southbound Interstate 95 at US-17/US-1/exit 126 in the vicinity of Fredericksburg
  2. Baltimore–Washington Parkway (Maryland Route 295) @ Interstate 195 (I-195)
  3. Southbound 95 Express Lanes near Dumfries, exit 152 (Interstate 95 southbound at VA-234/Exit 152)

“Due to the length of its bottlenecks and the number of occurrences, this stretch of Interstate 95 in Spotsylvania County is the topmost traffic congestion hotspot in the Washington metro region. What is more, it ranks sixth in the nation among the top traffic hotspots in America’s most congested cities,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Things will wax worse along this stretch of I-95 southbound on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.”

Road Closures for Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger

The following streets and alleyways will be closed Thanksgiving from approximately 5:30 am until approximately 12:30 pm:

  • 14th & Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, to 9th & Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
  • The 400 block of 13th Street, NW, from E Street, NW, to Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
  • 10th, 11th, 12th Street, NW from E Street, NW, to Constitution Avenue, NW

Expect congestion at the following roads on the race route:

  • East on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, from 9th & Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, to 3rd & Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
  • South on 3rd Street, NW/SW, to West on Independence Avenue, SW
  • U-Turn at 7th & Independence Avenue, SW, & travel East on Independence Avenue, SW, to 4th Street, SW
  • South on 4th Street, SW, to East on D Street, SW, to 3rd Street, SW
  • North on 3rd Street, NW/SW, to Constitution Avenue, NW
  • West on Constitution Avenue, NW, to West on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, to the Finish Line

Express Lanes

For those planning to use Express Lanes (both 95 and 495), the busiest getaway travel times before Thanksgiving weekend in 2016 were Tuesday between 3 to 7 p.m. and Wednesday between 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Those periods are again expected to have the heaviest travel volumes.

Last year, drivers saved as much as 50 percent off tolls by avoiding travel during the afternoon and evening portions of the getaway, when demand on the Express Lanes is at its highest and the dynamic tolls increase to manage traffic on the Lanes.

  • An E-ZPass issued from out-of-state will work on the Express Lanes.
  • Vehicles with at least three people, including the driver, are reminded to travel with an E-ZPass(R) FlexSM in HOV mode for a toll-free trip.
  • If family and friends visiting from out-of-town accidently travel on the Express Lanes without an E-ZPass, they can visit ExpressLanes.com/missed-a-toll to pay for trips within five days of travel, or contact the customer service center at 1-855-497-9777.

Meanwhile, the Express Lanes reversal schedule will be adjusted to accommodate holiday travel as follows:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 22: Close northbound one earlier at about 10 a.m. and open southbound by about noon.
  • Thursday, Nov. 23: Close southbound at about midnight and open northbound by about 2 a.m. northbound all day.
  • Friday, Nov. 24: Close northbound at about 11 a.m. and open southbound at about 1 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 25: Close southbound at about 2 p.m. and open northbound at about 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 26: Northbound all day.
  • Monday, Nov. 27: Close northbound at about 11 a.m. and open southbound at about 1 p.m.

Transit Agencies

Area transit agencies will operate on holiday or weekend service throughout the Thanksgiving holiday.

Metro

The big adjustment in Metrorail service will occur beginning Saturday on the Red Line, where construction will prevent trains from operating between Silver Spring and Fort Totten. Takoma Station will also be closed. Click here to read more about the Red Line disruption starting Saturday and lasting through Dec. 10.

Fairfax Connector

Sunday service on Thanksgiving and holiday weekday service on Friday.

Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 23

  • The following routes will operate Sunday service: 101, 109, 151, 152, 161, 162, 171, 310, 321, 322, 371, 401, 402, 423, 463, 505, 551, 558, 559, 574, 605, 630, 640, 650, 721, 937, 950, 981, 983, RIBS 1, RIBS 2, RIBS 3, RIBS 4 and RIBS 5.
  • Routes not listed above do not operate on Sundays and therefore will not operate on Thanksgiving Day.

Day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 24

  • The following routes will not operate: 231, 232, 335, 393, 394, 395, 422, 432, 461, 494, 495, 556, 585, 599, 624, 634, 644, 724 and 985.
  • Route 980 will run every 12-15 minutes instead of every 6-8 minutes.
  • All other routes will operate regular weekday service.

Additional information and schedules can be found here: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/connector/routes/holiday.htm

VRE

There will be no VRE service on Thanksgiving. Trains will operate on the “S” schedule on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

MARC

The MARC Train Penn Line Service will operate on the following schedule before and after the Thanksgiving Holidays:

Wednesday, Nov. 22: Select trains will operate on modified schedules as follows. If a train is not listed, it will operate as scheduled.

There will be a special 2:50pm Penn Line departure from Union Station making the following stops ONLY: New Carrollton (3:00pm), Odenton (3:13pm), Baltimore Penn Station (3:35pm), Martin Airport (3:50pm), Edgewood (4:03pm), Aberdeen (4:12pm), and Perryville (4:25pm). The train may depart stations between Martin Airport and Aberdeen up to five minutes early.

Train 440, the 5:25pm departure from Union Station, will not operate (the train equipment and crew will be used to operate the 2:50pm special).

Thursday, Nov. 23: No MARC Train Service

Friday, Nov. 24: There will be no service on the Camden or Brunswick Lines and the Penn Line will operate on the “R” schedule. Only trains with an “R” under the train number in the Penn Line timetable will operate. In addition, some trains will make additional stops as noted in the timetable grid. Please note that the “R” schedule replaces the former “S” schedule and that there have been changes made to which trains operate on this reduced service schedule. Carefully review the timetable to ensure that the train you want to ride is operating.

Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 25 and 26: Regularly-scheduled weekend Penn Line service.

Amtrak

On the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak Acela Express (Boston - Washington, D.C.) and Northeast Regional (Boston / Washington, D.C. / Newport News, Va.) will operate full and extended schedules with additional frequencies and added capacity during Thanksgiving week. Standard Amtrak booking and ticketing procedures apply. Follow this link to see the Northeast Corridor schedule.