Best Boston->New Haven Thanksgiving route?
November 18, 2011 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Which Boston->New Haven route will have less traffic on Thanksgiving: 90-84-91, or 95?

I am driving from Boston to New Haven on Thanksgiving morning and want to avoid as much traffic as possible (knowing that there will be traffic regardless of which route I take). Should I take the Mass Pike to I-84 through Hartford and then I-91 South, or should I take I-95 through Providence along the shore?

I'm less concerned about the slight difference in distance or tolls if the traffic is likely to differ significantly between the two routes.
posted by Aethelwer to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak specifically to Thanksgiving, but I've driven between NY and Boston more times than I can count, and I can't imagine a time when 95 would be the better option. It's longer, there tends to be more construction, and the traffic through Providence tends to be worse than through Hartford.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:58 AM on November 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

I-84 is almost always your best bet, even though the Pike is going to be jammed.
posted by xingcat at 12:00 PM on November 18, 2011

Honestly, I think you're screwed either way. I don't take I-95 often but the Mass Pike is consistently backed up between Boston and I-84. Once you get on I-84, though, traffic tends to thin out.

A third option might be to take Rte 2 all the way to I-91. Traffic is probably a lot lighter and the route is very scenic, but it's pretty far out of the way and the speed limits are lower.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:01 PM on November 18, 2011

Agreed - taking 95 all the way violates two important principles of New England trip planning:

1) Don't drive on 95 in the state of Connecticut.

2) Never, ever drive through Providence if you don't absolutely have to.

Pike to 84 won't be beautiful, but it ought to be better.
posted by range at 12:02 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is a reason the Pike is jammed on Thanksgiving, and that reason is "It's Not 95 Through Providence". Leave yourself plenty of time.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:03 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

A third option might be to take Rte 2 all the way to I-91. Traffic is probably a lot lighter and the route is very scenic, but it's pretty far out of the way and the speed limits are lower.

Heavens, no! Don't do this! It's a great strategy for almost any other day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, unless you really like sitting in an idling car at the intersection just before Walden Pond, or the prison.
posted by xingcat at 12:13 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd do 90 to 395 to 95. I've taken 95 from New London to Westport (so, most of the length of CT) for the past several years on Thanksgiving morning and it's been surprisingly just fine. But I'd worry about getting out of Boston on 95 (or, well, on anything, but 90 seems slightly better) and about the 91 to 95 merge area. I don't actually know how the merge will be on Thanksgiving, but I avoid it whenever possible on any other day. 395 is, like, never a problem unless there's a ton of snow on it.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:17 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I-84 to I-91 is going to be your best bet through CT. You'll probably get some congestion through Hartford, and on I-91 in Meriden around exit 17 with all the New Yorkers going to the parkway not knowing how exit only lanes work... but should be smooth sailing from there to New Haven.
posted by reptile at 12:34 PM on November 18, 2011

I've driven NYC to Boston about a dozen times on or around Thanksgiving, and I'm surprised so many people are worried about traffic on Thursday. The worst traffic is almost always Wednesday, peaking of course during rush hour. The couple of times I've driven 84 and 90 on Thanksgiving itself, the roads were pretty empty. If you're really worried about it, wake up early, but I don't think it'll be terrible. And yeah, I-84 is better than I-95.
posted by one_bean at 12:41 PM on November 18, 2011

I've driven between Boston and New York many, many times and I almost always stop in New Haven halfway (Frank Pepe, yo). I'm pretty familiar with this area and that drive, and I disagree with most of what's been said in this thread: I always choose 95 over 90/84, and I have almost never hit serious traffic anywhere along the route. I once hit a bad spot coming back north around Warwick, but I've never been stuck in a serious jam on the trip south. On the other hand, the Pike is routinely a nightmare on travel holidays (keep in mind, the day before Thanksgiving will be worse) and I have been stuck in 2+ hour traffic jams on 84.

My caveat is that I have never made the drive on Thanksgiving. I have made this exact drive on the Friday after Thanksgiving every year for the past several years (and then back the following Monday), and again, I've always taken 95 without problem.
posted by cribcage at 12:43 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have had verygood luck travelling from NYC to Boston by taking the Merritt Parkway through CT instead of 91 or 95. But I have to confess I haven't done it on a holiday. Much prettier, though.
posted by Diablevert at 12:47 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:51 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've always taken 95 without problem.

I am boggling at Cribcage's traffic mojo right now. I live in NYC and my mom lives in Boston; and for a year and a half, while first dating Mr. Narrative, he ALSO live in Boston, and I made the trip up and back every other weekend. Thinking of how many hours of my life I've spent sitting in stopped-dead traffic on 95 makes me shudder a little.

Stay off of 95 at all costs. Different people have their own preferred alternate routes (we like to spend as much time as possible on the Merrit Parkway, as it's gorgeous) but literally ANYTHING is better than 95 during peak travel times.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:52 PM on November 18, 2011

I would normally drive 90-84-91, but on Thanksgiving, the 90 stretch from Worcester to 84 will be a nightmare. I suggest getting on 395 in Worcester, flying all the way down to 95. 395 is never trafficky and while you might lose some time in traffic on 95, I think you will still come out ahead.
posted by arveale at 12:57 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you choose 90-84-91, you shouldn't go "through Hartford". Instead, take the Charter Oak Bridge to bypass the I-84/I-91 junction in Hartford. You'll still have plenty of company, though.
posted by Right On Red at 1:09 PM on November 18, 2011


The fact that you're doing the Boston-to-New-Haven leg is a minor saving grace, in that you avoid the New-Haven-to-New-York black hole of highway misery, but don't risk it, DON'T DO 95. I've had drives where the drive from one exit to the next took nearly an HOUR. Even the fact that it's Thanksgiving morning, I don't trust it.

(This is a somewhat hyperbolic answer I will admit. I've just had SERIOUS bad luck every time I do 95.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:15 PM on November 18, 2011

Right On Red, that's what I meant :P Hartford traffic can still back up in that area though around rush hour.
posted by reptile at 2:20 PM on November 18, 2011

395! 395! I-90 to 395! The stretch of 95 after that is nearly at New Haven and generally decent. I am someone who feels strongly about Getting Connecticut the Fuck Over With and that's how I would do it. Watch your speed on 395 (I'm assuming your have Mass plates), and particularly right after the merge with 95 where the speed drops (assuming traffic is moving full on.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:42 PM on November 18, 2011

i have done variations on this drive from Boston to NJ many times over the years, on Wednesday and thursday, and I agree that you won't find much trouble on Thursday. Wednesday is peak traffic. I also agree with those who say 395, but do note that 395 does NOT save you from the 91/95 merge (you'll be on 95 for it but it's still slow through New Haven). Still it is the best of all your options by far. It's a sleeper of a road.
posted by Miko at 3:33 PM on November 18, 2011

johnnygunn has the right idea with 90-84-684-95. But I've done this drive from Philly to Boston several times over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, there is no good way.
posted by Nackt at 4:08 PM on November 18, 2011

*Cough* *Amtrak* *Cough*
posted by schmod at 5:50 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another vote for 90 - 395 - 95. 95 is bad, but the New London to New Haven stretch is the least bad. We travel in different directions, but always end up going down Rt 91 to New Haven to pick up someone at the train station. Then we head out on Rt 95 eastbound and up 395. We've done this route for years on Thanksgiving morning. It's generally bearable.

I-684 is in New York State, skip that!
posted by smalls at 6:28 PM on November 18, 2011

I like 395 too but only if I'm going someplace I can get to with Route 2. 95 is the worst. I would avoid it, even that stretch.

How about 90-84-91 and then the Merritt (route 15)? I am with Narrative Priorities that the Merritt is a great road. (depends on exactly where in New Haven you're headed)...
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:25 PM on November 18, 2011

*Cough* *Amtrak* *Cough*

Thanksgiving is the one day this is actually not the better choice. I once road from Mystic, CT, to New York, standing up in the vestibule, paying full price, on Thanksgiving morning.
posted by Miko at 9:09 PM on November 18, 2011

I live out in central Mass and we NEVER take the Pike to 84. I get on route 20 as soon as I can (route 9 to 20 works) then take 395 south in Auburn.

Another option is take Route 20 to route 131 in Sturbridge, then take old route 15 after the Post Office to Route 84, bypassing the Mass Pike/84 tolls. You'll get to see the tornado damage too.
posted by andreap at 1:52 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Need to back up Seymour Z. above. Disregard the suggestions involving 684 or the Merritt; good suggestions for going to NYC and beyond, but both of them are well past New Haven coming from Boston.

Agreed that the conventional wisdom around here (I'm a CT resident) is that 95 isn't a way to Boston, it's a detour to Providence. I'm a Pike-84-91 guy myself for that trip, but 395 is probably also a better alternative to 95.

On Thanksgiving morning, you'll want to check for accidents, etc. but that's not really a bad time to be out on the roads at all; don't sweat this decision too much. (Though the weather forecast hints there might be a little snow in the air around MA/CT that morning.)
posted by gazole at 7:52 AM on November 20, 2011

Just adding a data point for anyone who looks at this later - the Pike to 84 was definitely backed up this morning (Thanksgiving Day); I was going east from Worcester around 9:30am and westbound looked very slow.
posted by songs about trains at 9:23 AM on November 24, 2011

Yeah, my folks from NJ and friends from Western Mass arrived Thanksgiving morning delayed about an hour by an accident in the 90/95 merge region. It seems traffic on thursday is getting worse as more people try to avoid Wednesday.
posted by Miko at 9:07 PM on November 25, 2011

Response by poster: I chose the 90->84->91 route. Leaving at 9AM, I encountered very little traffic. Thanks for all the advice!
posted by Aethelwer at 6:56 PM on November 27, 2011

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