Rhonda63 needs driving advice

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Rhonda63 needs driving advice
By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 11:47 am: Edit

I've mentioned this on another thread, but am hoping to get some advice from seasoned East Coast drivers.

Will be driving D from DC to Providence on Friday, then back on Saturday afternoon/evening. I'm particularly concerned about the Friday drive up, since it's the day after the RNC convention (which could mean a lot of traffic leaving NYC) and, even worse, the start of a 3-day weekend. I've been kind of blocking the whole thing from my mind, but now need to figure out (1) best route and (2) timing.

I was planning to take I95 from DC through Baltimore to the NJ turnpike, then up to the Tappan Zee. Any suggestions for how to get to Providence after the TZ? Last time I did that I basically took 95 over to Providence (can't remember where I picked it up) -- is there an easier alternative? Any other route suggestions?

Timing -- I have to pick up the rental minivan Friday morning and then we have to load it up (shouldn't take long -- D is fairly spartan and claims she is taking even less stuff this year!). Realistically, we won't be leaving before 1 pm, although we may try to shoot for noon. I'm assuming it's better to leave earlier rather than later because of Labor Day traffic, which will only get worse as the afternoon goes on. Any thoughts on this?

Before anyone suggests it, we can't leave on Thursday, which would probably be a much better day to leave! And D wants to arrive by Sat morning, so leaving a day later won't work either.

Thanks for any suggestions and advice! (I do have EZ Pass, btw).

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 12:18 pm: Edit

Rhonda, I am sorry to tell you that it took us 7 hours to drive from Providence to NY two Sundays ago, taking 95 and the Merritt. It was just unbelievable. There were no accidents, no big construction projects; the only thing that seemed to slow down traffic was the sunset shining in our eyes. The time of day, not just the day, makes a big difference. I wouldn't worry so much about your Saturday night trip; I do think traveling earlier on Friday would help. At least then you would be ahead of all the people who leave their jobs in Manhattan at noon and hit the road.

The Merritt Parkway can be a lot better than 95, although many people seem to have discovered this, unfortunately. ;-) I kid you not, my husband now insists we take Route 84 to Route 44 to go to Providence. Of course, 84 has problems of its own, if you hit rush-hour traffic in the cities. But it has never been the nightmare we have experienced on 95.

By Blossom (Blossom) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 12:45 pm: Edit

If it were me I'd leave DC at 8 pm Friday; stay in a cheap motel on the NY side of 287 (i.e. right past the Tappan Zee bridge) and finish up on 95 early Sat. morning. If you have two drivers, you could probably do another hour Friday night which would put you around Bridgeport CT and get you to Providence easily Sat. morning.

I was on 95 driving south towards NY at 3 pm this past Friday, and the traffic towards Providence was backed up forever on the CT side. It was a beachy day and a forecast for a hot weekend, and the shoreline traffic was murder. I would not plan to be heading towards Providence on Friday-- convention or no convention.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 12:58 pm: Edit

Uggghhh -- thanks for the advice. Maybe I should re-think my departure time. The main problem with leaving so late Friday is that it could easily take 6-7 hours to get to the Tappan Zee from here, which means we'll be driving until 2 a.m. -- not good for us, although maybe w/enough caffeine we can do it! Sounds like I need to look at alternatives to get across Connecticut (which, btw, looks like deceptively small on a map, but seems endless when you're crossing it east-west!).

Aparent-- I'm going to look at 84-->44 to see if that's an option.

Edit -- just looked at 84, which goes to Hartford and then you can pick up 44 to Providence. Definitely looks like an option. Aparent -- how is 44 to drive? Is it just a two-lane road? Thx.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 01:19 pm: Edit

I agree with Aparent's advice.

Heck, I've even gone via Harrisburg and Scranton just to avoid Delaware, NJT etc. It's a lot longer, but a whole lot more relaxing.

Beware that the delays for the delaware tolls will be horrible, and EZpass is no fix.

Yea, Friday PM is a good time for gridlock in the NYC area. Give yourself a break - go through PA. If you want more detailed suggestions, let me know, but the PA route is very pretty.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 01:34 pm: Edit

Massdad!!! Thanks for the advice, we did the Scranton route back from Providence in May -- spur of the moment decision when we hit bumper to bumper traffic in New Haven. Based on the warnings I'm getting about Conn traffic, I'm toying with the idea of doing that again. It was 9 hours last time, including traffic between Prov and New Haven.

I would appreciate your suggestions on what route to take once in Connecticut to get to Providence. Last time we did 95 btwn Providence and New Haven (we were going east to west that time) then some complicated route from New Haven west. There might be a better way that I'm not aware of -- THANKS!!!

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 01:45 pm: Edit

Rhonda, 44 is a two lane road for some of the time but not all; sometimes you're going past shopping centers, sometimes through country towns. I do have a bias in that I far prefer a smaller road to the 8 lanes on much of 95.

By Idler (Idler) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 01:46 pm: Edit

Sorry Rhonda, I've tried 'em all many times, there's no good way.EZ Pass helps. Merritt Parkway, off 287, features a number of beautiful bridges across it, WPA masterpieces, no two the same.Better than 95 all the way, but lots of traffic. New Haven the pits.GW bridge most direct but not a good idea when you plan to travel. The trouble with trying any one of a number of western routes is that you go way out of your way and still encounter massive traffic. For future reference, T F Green airport is a cheap and easy--less than an hour--flight.

By Idler (Idler) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 01:58 pm: Edit

Taconic-44 is the nicest, and maybe least stressful. Millbrook NY to near Lakeville CT is exquisite, but not after dark, Hartford not always horrible, but it will take a long time.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 01:58 pm: Edit

Idler -- thanks! I think you're right, there's no good way. That's why I've been trying not to think about it, lol.

We've actually had very good luck with the GW bridge twice -- granted, once was in Jan when a huge snowstorm was predicted for the East Coast and we sailed all the way from DC to Providence, and most of the way back, until snow and EXTREME cold made it impossible for us to go further than the Del Mem Bridge (snow was instantaneously freezing on the windshield, and making it impossible to see anything, in spite of defrost blasting on high! not pleasant...). The other time was actually last year, late August, midweek (can't recall what time of day) and we sailed through the GW Bridge again.

But I'm just not prepared to risk it on Friday afternoon before a 3 day weekend! My father still refers to it as the "damn GW bridge" from four years of driving my sister to New Haven and back...

And D usually flies back and forth during the year for Thanksgiving, Spring Break, etc., but we do drive her at the beginning and the end of the school year (and we drove her back in Jan last year, although I'd prefer not to this year). We flew for parents' weekend, too. As you say, it's a short, cheap flight, and definitely the way to go.

I think my options are to risk the Turnpike and Tappan Zee (using perhaps Aparent's 84 to 44 suggestion through Conn) OR the Scranton route. Idler -- are you familiar with the Scranton route, or with 84/44? Do you think those will be heavily trafficked, too? Thx.

By Elleneast (Elleneast) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 02:09 pm: Edit

Hi Rhonda,

I wish that I could tell you that driving at night will save you some time but I headed south from Cape Cod to PA last Sunday leaving at 7:00 PM and crawled through CT on 95, not reaching the Philly burbs until close to 3 AM. There seems to be no time of day when traffic is predictably good on that road. I crossed the Tappan Zee just before midnight and the southbound lanes were flowing but northbound was at a dead stop. There was no discernable problem such as an accident or construction.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 02:20 pm: Edit

Thanks, Ellen. This is sounding better and better, lol.

Here's the route I got from Dr. Gridlock (Washington Post traffic columnist) -- take 81 to Scranton, then 84 east across New York State and continuing across Connecticut (crossing the Hudson at Newburgh) to Hartford. I suppose from Hartford I could take 44 to Providence. Seems awfully long, but I'll think about it -- H's inclination will be to take the straightest route, traffic be damned, so we may have to "discuss" a little.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 03:12 pm: Edit

I've done the Scranton route many times. Overall, it's a relatively painless route, although I have encountered occasional bottlenecks at the obvious places: Scranton at the 81/84 interchange, at the Newburgh bridge tolls, at the merge of 84/684 near Danbury, and in Hartford at the 84/91 interchanges. Usually, these have been the result of a defined cause such as a wreck or road construction.

The advantage of this route for you is that you miss Baltimore, Delaware, Philly, New Jersey, New York. I take this route south because, in addition to those, I also miss Washington, D.C. which can be its own traffic nightmare.

A variation on this route is the NJ TPK to the Garden State PKWY to the Tappen Zee Bridge to the Saw Mill Pkwy to 684 north which throws you onto 84 near Danbury. This route was clear sailing for us last week, but we did it mid-day on a Monday and a Wednesday.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 03:17 pm: Edit

Thanks, Interesteddad. The Tappan Zee is my other option, but I'm getting increasingly worried about the Turnpike.

When you do the Scranton route, how do you get from Boston to Hartford?

You're right about DC traffic -- it's a nightmare. The Beltway can be a mess at any given place at any given time. I think we rank #2 or #1 worst depending on how you count it -- I think hours of commute time may be #1 worst in the country. I avoid driving if at all possible!

By Massdad (Massdad) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 03:51 pm: Edit

Scranton route:

Boston to Hartford is easy: just stay on 84 to the mass pike.

Hartford to Providence? We drove it a few months ago. We took I691 to CT66 to CT 9 southeast to Old Saybrook, then I95. (we were going to TF Green). I95 in eastern CT and RI is not too heavily travelled. I'm sure US 44, as others suggested, would be a pretty drive and not too heavily travelled.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 04:04 pm: Edit

>> Boston to Hartford is easy: just stay on 84 to the mass pike.

Easy except that the section of the Mass Pike from the 1-84 interchange to I-495 is often a complete mess.

I couldn't believe it last Monday at 11:30 in the morning -- the Mass Pike was bumper to bumper heading westbound.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 09:28 pm: Edit


Interesting what you found. I wonder if it was road construction? Otherwise, the worst backups I've seen have been related to the Bos-NYC holiday migrations around Thanksgiving and Easter.

This is a good time of year to get up to date road closure information of course. You can usually find it on state HYW department web sites. And thanks for the reminder - I have a Chicago road trip in a bit less than 2 weeks.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 09:42 am: Edit

Thanks for the tip about road closure info (and all other advice).

After much discussion last night -- well, at least as much as H and D would tolerate -- I think we are taking the Turnpike to Tappan Zee then probably Merritt Parkway, picking up 95 somewhere after New Haven. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 10:35 am: Edit


When you say "Turnpike to Tappen Zee", I hope you mean getting off the NJ Turnpike and taking the Garden State Parkway through northern Jersey!

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 10:41 am: Edit

Yes, that's right -- thanks for checking to make sure I don't subvert my elaborate plans by ending up on the GW bridge after all!

By Dadx (Dadx) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 10:48 am: Edit

In NJ, when you get near Philly, you can tune in 101.5 Fm and get statewide traffic reprts every 15 minutes or so if you can tolerate the broadcasting content in between it. As you get north of Exit 8 on the NJ turnpike, you can tune into AM 1010 WINS which give NY traffic every ten minutes at 11 after, 21 after, etc. They talk fast, so listen to the description of the Garden State Pkway and the George Washington Bridge inbound. The Tappan Zee gets mentioned less often.

Tappan Zee can get fairly backed up too. Shortest way if the bridge traffic is not a disaster is to take 95 all the way to the GWB (MAKE SURE TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE SIGNS, or you'll end up headed to the lincoln tunnel). AT the GWB (assuming 1010 tells you the wait is 15 minutes or less) TAKE THE LOWER LEVEL.....it is ALWAYS faster. Stay left across the bridge and at the other end take (left exit from the brudge lower level) the Henry Hudson 9A North follow the signs, loop under the bridge and head north. Take that road about 8 miles to the Cross County Parkway, exit right, and take the Cross County about 5-6 miles to the Hutchinson Parkway North (left exit). THe Hutch becomes the Merrit Parkway. You can take the Merritt about 28 miles to the I95 remerge(just over the Sikorsy Bridge, or you can take I287 East about 2 miles and pick up I95 at Rye/Greenwich and go all the way up 95. Merrit v 95 traffic reports should be available on WEBE 107.9 FM. It should be receivable once you're in Westchester on the "Hutch" parkway

Back to GWB v Tappan Zee....... If 95 and GWB are bad, take the Garden State Parkway(assuming it sounds better) which is around exit 10 or so on 95. In addition, you can get over to the GSP using Route 3 W around Giants stadum, or taking I80W a little further up. The Garden State Parkway runs into I287, which then takes you accross the Tappan Zee bridge.

If you take the Merrit, per your post above, the connection to 95 occurs in Shelton just accross the Sikorsky bridge(right exit and comes up fast because the bridge has just been rebuilt and they have a kind of "gate" type exit with only one shot at it. Stay in the right lane over the bridge.....easy to miss it. If you miss it you'll have to drive through New Haven to get back to 95.

Seriously, I would use the radio and make adjustments on the fly. We just drove the DC-northeast route last Sunday and had no problems leaving early until we got to the NJturnpike, where we hit some delays. But over the GWB was a piece of cake. And once you clear the bridge, the 9A north to Cross County to Hutch/merritt north Never has any traffic till you get up to CT.

Good luck

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 10:54 am: Edit

Dadx - THANK YOU!!! Not sure I followed all this, but will print it out and consult my maps. I truly appreciate the radio advice, too -- I'm always madly searching for traffic reports when on a road trip and can never find them when I need them.

Do you recommend the Merritt Parkway over I-95 through Connecticut? I've found horrible traffic on 95 in New Rochelle to and through Conn, even on days the GW Bridge was a breeze. Others seem to saying the Merritt Parkway can be bad, too -- I guess I should check the reports again and make a decision.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 11:16 am: Edit

I fully agree wiht Dadx regarding HHP to Cross County to Hutch IF you decide to take the GWB. The biggest problem is that the road east of the GWB often clogs with trucks, so the GWB backs up horribly. The advantage of the Dadx route is that the trucks cannot go that way. On weekdays, all the trucks are out in force.

Regardless, I have NEVER seen a time where I95 was better than the Merritt, but I've seen many a time where Merritt was fine, I95 backed up. However, I have not yet driven the Meritt this year, and know it did have some nasty construction delays last year.

By Dadx (Dadx) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 11:57 am: Edit

Merrit has a tendency to be bad northbound at commuter times, which on Friday in the summer goes from about 3:30PM - say 7:30PM. There are actually times when the Merritt is worse, but certainly fewer. Check the radio.

The other thing to note for traveling is that there seems to be a fair amount of nighttime construction these days, which can turn late trips into a real challenge. I would favor the Ben Franklin early to bed/rise method of traveling generally.

I think it depends on the time of day and which day you expect to hit the area.

If you should do the GWB, the route I suggest gets you off at the other end and you shoot up the Hudson River and then cross over. (Massdad is right about the trucks.) It gets you out of the I 95 portion that goes from NYC to 287 through New Rochelle. Once you clear the bridge, start listening to WEBE 107.9. Or if the traffic reports aren't quick enough, AM 1350 or 1410? in Norwalk and Stamford might give better reports. You'll have to make a decision on Merritt v I 95 about 20 minutes after you clear the bridge, cause thats how long it'll take to get to the Hutch/Merritt--I 287 interchange (where you'd take 287east for 2 miles to intersect I95 north.

Obviously, as noted by others, there are times when both of the routes are lousy. I'd say just see if you can listen and discern which is which. Don't forget your EZ pass!!

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Sunday, September 05, 2004 - 10:51 am: Edit

Hey -- thanks for the advice, everyone. We took the Turnpike to the Garden State Pkway to the Tappan Zee to the Merritt Parkway, then 95 from New Haven. Not bad, just some traffic on the Turnpike at exits 6-8. Also some Beltway traffic leaving DC (of course).

Coming back was worse -- I figured 95 all the way would be fine on Saturday pm, but NOOOOO ... from New Haven pretty much to the GW Bridge was stop and go, esp the X-Bronx. They had one lane of 95 closed off, it looked like they were stopping and searching trucks.

I'm sticking to the Tappan Zee route from now on. Thanks again for all the advice -- I did listen to 1010 ("1010 wins!") for traffic updates every ten minutes, and even if you can't get off the highway, personally it helps me to know how far the back up is going to extend.

By Dadx (Dadx) on Sunday, September 05, 2004 - 01:46 pm: Edit

Actually, on the way back you probably would've been better off to have taken the Merritt to the Hutchinson, Cross County to Henry Hudson, down underneath the GWB and then back up onto it. Complicated for an out-of-towner, though.

If its any consolation, I have heard people tell horror stories about traffic in Houston, LA, Dallas, DC, Philly, etc, etc,. I have spent time in a number of places and IMO, there is NO place in the country with traffic as consistently bad and as unpreditably disastrous as the NYC metropolitan area. For some reason, it doesn't get talk about as much as the other areas do, I think.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 09:52 am: Edit

Dadx -- someone had recommended that route to me, so I had good instructions on how to follow it. Just didn't realize 95 would be so bad -- I'll know next time!

DC apparently has the second-worst traffic in the US, depending on how you count it (I think time spent in commute is the measure). But I drive so little here, since I rely on public transportation, that I'm really not used to spending a lot of time in traffic.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 11:14 am: Edit

I95 between NYC and CT is always bad. I would only drive that route at gunpoint. Even I95 in CT all the way to New Haven is a problem. It only improves once you get beyond New Haven.

Glad you survived otherwise. BTW, don't you love those rest stops on the NJT? Where else would you find a Roy Rodgers? Where else would you find no edible food for 100 miles?

How were the Delaware tolls?

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 12:00 pm: Edit

Hey, Massdad -- no more Roy's on the Turnpike. They're all Burger King now (H was happy b/c he's a Whopper fan and no BKs near our home, but I had brought my own food, as a non-carnivore). And the rest stops were CROWDED as always (or do I just travel when everyone else does???).

Delaware really milks you for the half hour you spend in the state!

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