Driving to Philadelphia from North Carolina
May 16, 2017 3:55 PM   Subscribe

We live in the Northwest corner of NC. We are going to Philadelphia on Thursday. The Google maps route takes us through DC Driving in Charlotte during heavy traffic can be pretty stressful for me. I'm fairly certain DC can be much worse.

What time would be most beneficial to avoid the worst of said traffic? We'll be taking 81 to 66 through DC to 95. Should we avoid DC altogether? When I've checked the directions at different times, I think it was 81 to 70. It's about an 8 hour drive. I guess what I'd like to know is when is DC traffic the worst? If I have a general idea of what times to avoid getting there, I can adjust our departure time.
Also, we have an Airbnb reservation so we can't get there at 4am.
posted by Epsilon-minus semi moron to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I grew up near DC and now live in Philadelphia. Both cities have absolutely horrible traffic at all times of day. 66 in particular is a parking lot during weekdays except between about 10 AM and 2PM; rush "hour" HOV lanes run 5AM-9AM inbound and 3PM-7PM outbound. 95 also takes you through the multiple flyovers and interchanges around Baltimore -- I've done that route many times and find the Baltimore section confusing every time.

I would recommend staying on 81 to Harrisburg, then cutting across on 76. It might be a longer route, but I imagine it would be far less stressful.
posted by basalganglia at 4:05 PM on May 16 [9 favorites]


I've done Charlotte to Boston many times, often stopping off in Philly. I-77 -> I-81 -> I-76. The Difference is only about 60 miles or so, and completely avoids DC. The extra 45 minutes is totally worth it.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:06 PM on May 16 [5 favorites]


I live in Philly and have relatives in DC, and i can't think of a time of day or night that didn't have traffic.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:29 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Seconding Cat Pie Hurts....we do Charlotte to NY and always do 77 to 81...anything to avoid 95.
posted by Captain_Science at 4:46 PM on May 16 [6 favorites]


I think if you left at 6am and would get to Philly by 2 or 3, you'd be okay, driving around DC in the late morning.

I find Harrisburg to be worse than Baltimore, but I'm a fairly experienced hauler, so neither is approaching GW Bridge awful.
posted by Dashy at 5:22 PM on May 16


Joining the chorus to avoid 95 - I did Raleigh to Boston one time and never, ever will I do that again. Once you're past Richmond it's bad the rest of the way up the Eastern seaboard.
posted by something something at 5:32 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


By 'through D.C. to 95', do you literally mean through D.C. itself? Because that's unnecessary madness --- even 66 to 495 (the Beltway) to 95, looping AROUND DC, would be an improvement.
posted by easily confused at 5:45 PM on May 16


I take 81 to 66 regularly when going home to MD from southwest VA. I go after work so I hit 66 at about 7pm and never have a problem getting to/around the beltway when I reach it at about 8pm. That would get you to Philadelphia at 11pm. Friday nights in summer might be a bit more congested as you near your exit as it's just past the beach exit (route 50).

A nice option is to stay on 81 to 7 (Winchester through Harper's Ferry) to 340 (Berryville) to 70 thru Frederick over to Baltimore. Might be a few more miles but it sure is pretty.
posted by headnsouth at 5:58 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


easily confused: I think OP must mean the route you suggest because 95 doesn't go thru DC, from 95 south of DC you'd have to take 395 to go thru DC, and then take US 50 or US 29 (or shudder DC 295 / BW Parkway) back to the Beltway around to 95.

I think 81 to the PA Turnpike as suggested above is the best alternative, and the only other one I could suggest is 81 to US 30 near Chambersburg, PA and then take US 30 to Philly.
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:01 PM on May 16


I live in New Jersey and go home to Asheville often and always go on 81 and then take 26 down. it seems like if you are anywhere near Asheville, you could take 26 to 81 and then take 76 across to Philadelphia. I find this route way more relaxing for sure.
posted by katinka-katinka at 6:03 PM on May 16


nthing the 77-81-76 route, based on years of experience driving Charlotte-Boston and also DC-area commuting. You want no part of I-66 or I-495 (the DC Beltway) if you plan on arriving in Philly in a sane frame of mind.
posted by mccxxiii at 6:28 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


I'm still puzzling the "NW corner of NC". You mean like Boone or Mt. Airy-ish? Mox nix. Like every other sane person says, hop on 81 then make the 70/95 versus 76 decision based on where in Philly you're going.
posted by achrise at 5:24 AM on May 17


I'll add that in my experience 81 through Virginia is always full of Troopers, especially the southern section. It's where I first learned the value of Waze.
posted by achrise at 5:40 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


the Commonwealth is indeed aggressive with speed enforcement
posted by thelonius at 6:53 AM on May 17


81/76 is 15 to 20 miles more than 81/66/(495)/95, but you avoid Washington. That's the way to go. (You'll hit tolls either way - in Baltimore and in Delaware's annoying-as-shit toll grab if you take 95, and on the PA Turnpike if you take 76.) If you can be more specific about your Philadelphia destination that might help optimize that end of the trip.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:43 AM on May 17


You can run into slow-moving traffic on 81 through Virginia, but when I've done a trip like yours, I've used the 81 to 76 route and would do so again. I drive 66 to 81 (and back) from the Virginia DC suburbs every weekend. 81 is full of tractor-trailer traffic in the two northbound and two southbound lanes. I notice much more traffic and trucks on Sunday afternoons/evenings when I am heading north, and generally less traffic in the morning/midday hours. Keep U.S. 11 (which parallels 81) as a backup if 81 is bad. I do my best to avoid both 95 and the Beltway at any time.
posted by apartment dweller at 9:30 AM on May 17


Thanks everyone. Going to take 81/76 route.
To reply to queries: (if you're‚Äč still checking in on this thread)
Achrise: yes, we're close to both Boone and Mt.Airy.I wasn't being purposely gauge, we live in Sparta. Very small town not many have heard of And our Airbnb is in
West Germantown... Does that change 81/76 being the best route?

Easily confused: it goes around DC on 495, not though
posted by Epsilon-minus semi moron at 10:48 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Germantown is north of the city, so that makes coming in on 76 even better. You'll be heading toward the city in the afternoon when everyone else is leaving, and you should be exiting right before the Schuykill "Expressway" gets to be anything but.
posted by basalganglia at 4:06 PM on May 18


There's going to be a great variability in the amount of time that the 95 to 495 back to 95 route takes, depending on traffic. There are times when that whole route from Richmond to past Baltimore is close to a parking lot. The western route suggested (81, 76) has a lower variability than the shorter route. If I had no idea what the traffic was going to be like, I would always choose the western route. You could always check the traffic right before you leave and see what it is going to be like.

If you wanted a more pleasant drive, you could do something similar to what headnsouth recommends above, but with a western route from Frederick. I would go 81 to 7 (Winchester through Harper's Ferry) to 340 (Berryville) and then get on 15N at Frederick. This would take you to Harrisburg, there you could get on the Turnpike to Philly. 15N is a nice drive most of the way.
posted by jefeweiss at 1:55 PM on May 19


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