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Police, Airports Brace for Crush of Thanksgiving Travelers

(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) Expect heavy traffic at the airports and on local highways as more than a million people depart the D.C. area for the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to Reagan National Airport, peak travel days include today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday), plus Saturday and Sunday for those returning from their Thanksgiving vacation.

Travelers are advised to take Metro and use terminal garages due to ongoing construction for a new 14-gate concourse at DCA, titled “Project Journey,” that has reduced lane capacity on the Arrivals roadway in front of Terminal B/C. Meanwhile, big storms affecting large portions of the country may bring flight delays and cancellations.

On the roads, AAA Mid-Atlantic is predicting a “big exodus,” with the worst traffic expected tomorrow.

“As a result, holiday travelers exiting the area and those staying put for the holiday, will encounter heavier traffic congestion, as well as travel delays that are almost three times longer than the normal delays — if there is such a thing around here — during the afternoon rush hours on any given Wednesday.”

Another traffic tracking company agrees, saying 3-5 p.m. on Wednesday should bring the worst traffic on D.C. area highways and arterials.

As Thanksgiving is one of the worst times of the year for crashes, Virginia State Police will be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. — Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort — starting tomorrow and running until December 1. The program, will increase police visibility and traffic enforcement efforts throughout the five-day holiday period.

The Arlington County Police Department, meanwhile, has partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a high-visibility “Click It or Ticket” campaign, starting today and running until December 6.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority had the following tips for travelers, after the jump.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is gearing up for another record holiday travel season between Thanksgiving and the New Year at both Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.

As Thanksgiving approaches, the Airports Authority expects to see heavier traffic and passenger volumes traveling through its two National Capital Region airports from Nov. 21 through Dec. – especially on peak travel days leading up to and immediately following the Nov. 28 holiday.

As a result of the forecast increase in traveler volume, significantly higher congestion is expected on airport roadways and inside the terminals — especially at Reagan National, where Project Journey construction has reduced roadway lanes and sidewalks at Terminal B/C by about one third.

To ensure a faster, more enjoyable and less stressful experience when coming to Reagan National or Dulles International this holiday season, keep these tips in mind:

  • Get there early
    To accommodate potential traffic congestion on airport roadways or long lines in the terminal and avoid missing flights, plan in advance to arrive inside the terminal early – at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international departures.
  • Park one hour for free
    Both Reagan National and Dulles International will offer a grace period of FREE parking in their parking garages for up to 60 minutes this holiday season. This option allows travelers to either surprise your loved ones by meeting them inside the terminal when they arrive or see them off without having to navigate busy vehicle traffic on the departures curb – all at no charge.
  • Use Metrorail
    Escape traffic congestion altogether when traveling through Reagan National by riding Metro to the airport. Pro tip: pick up or drop off a loved one at the Crystal City or Braddock Road stations to avoid driving to the airport.
  • Use the Dulles Cell Phone Lot
    If you’re picking up loved ones at Dulles International but would rather not park, the Cell Phone Lot is available and free to use for quick pick-ups. Once loved ones have retrieved their belongings and are waiting outside, cruise through for an easy getaway without having to circle airport roadways while you wait.
  • Don’t cut through
    While it may be tempting to cut through Reagan National for non-airport business, drivers will further contribute to roadway delays rather than save travel time for themselves and others.
  • One terminal, any door
    At Dulles International, all curbside departure and arrival doors provide the same access to the terminal. Rather than stopping at a specific airline zone, use any open pick-up or drop-off space to avoid blocking travel lanes. Airports Authority police will be directing traffic to the fastest-moving curb.
  • There’s an app for that
    Mobile apps are great resources for managing travel and staying informed. Download free navigation, airline and travel apps in advance to help you plan your trip and familiarize yourself with the airport. Opt-in push notifications can also alert you to possible traffic congestion, flight delays, gate changes and zone-specific boarding times. The DC Airports app also provides parking information and terminal maps, as well as shopping and dining options near you and on the way to the gate
  • Construction at Reagan National
    Project Journey at Reagan National is a multi-year effort to transform the passenger experience through the construction of two new security checkpoints and a new 14-gate concourse, replacing bus operations from Gate 35X. Details of the effects of construction on airport roads is broadcast locally on 1640 AM, and more information about the project is available at FlyReagan.com/ProjectJourney.

The Airports Authority wishes all those traveling through Reagan National and Dulles International a safe journey and happy holidays. For more travel tips and information, construction updates and a complete schedule of holiday events and performances, visit FlyReagan.com and FlyDulles.com.

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