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Heavy traffic ahead this Memorial Day

This Memorial Day weekend, traffic in the Washington region could be the heaviest in nearly a decade.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, more than 900,000 residents in the region are expected to travel 50 miles or further for the summer’s first holiday weekend.

That means—in the best-case scenario—drivers should expect heavy, slow-moving traffic on Interstate 95 through the Fredericksburg area. If there are serious crashes on the interstate, local roads are likely to be clogged as drivers seek alternative routes around the backups.

“This year’s tally is the second-highest travel volume for Memorial Day in the Washington metro area since the beginning of the millennium,” said AAA’s John Townsend II.

AAA Mid-Atlantic pointed to what it called an improving economy and the winter cabin fever as the enticements for the expected 36.1 million people nationwide to travel 50 miles or more during the long weekend. That’s an increase of 1.5 percent increase over last year’s 35.5 million.

The expected travel figures would be 2.6 percent higher than the 10-year average for the long weekend holiday.

Nearly 90 percent of travelers are expected to drive to their destinations.

Those who drive this weekend will likely pay a little less for a gallon of regular than the 2013 national average of $3.63.

To help with the increased traffic, the Virginia Department of Transportation will suspend most road-construction lane closures, including the Interstate 95 express lanes project, which covers 29 miles from Garrisonville to the Capital Beltway.

The suspension of lane closures will run from noon on Friday until noon Tuesday.

The existing I–95 HOV lanes will be open all weekend. On Sunday, though, they will be closed from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. for the Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride, which will start just north of Dale City and head into D.C.

The Virginia State Police will be out in force to handle the spike in traffic for Memorial Day, traditionally the start of the deadliest period on the nation’s roads.

Last year, nine people died in Memorial Day crashes on Virginia roads, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles statistics. The year before, 11 died in state crashes.

May also is traditionally the most deadly month on the road. In May 2012, 79 people died in 74 crashes statewide, according to the DMV.

Troopers expect to be busy this weekend.

Last year, they handled 473 crashes and issued 12,021 citations for speeding, 2,610 for reckless driving and 106 for drunken driving.

The Memorial Day period runs from Friday through Monday.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

 

HOV Schedule

FRIDAY: Normal HOV–3 restrictions will be in effect. Interstate 95/395 reversible lanes will be open for southbound traffic starting at 1 p.m.

SATURDAY: I–95/395 reversible lanes open for southbound traffic until

2 p.m. and will switch to northbound by 4 p.m.

SUNDAY: I–95/395 reversible lanes will be open for northbound traffic all day, but will be closed to regular traffic for the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

MONDAY: HOV restrictions on Interstate 66 and I–95/395 will be lifted. I–95/395 reversible lanes will be open for northbound traffic all day.

—The Virginia Department of Transportation

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