Best way to get to Jersey Shore from the north?
August 23, 2005 3:28 PM   Subscribe

NYCTrafficFilter: Help me avoid the worst of it. I have to drive from Maine to Long Branch, NJ for a wedding this weekend. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have to leave Portland at around 1 p.m. on Thursday. This means I'll be nearing NYC right around rush hour. Google Maps suggests going 84 to 91 to 95, over the GWB, to Garden State Parkway to Rt. 36. Should I trust Google on this one?
posted by damn yankee to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
Get off 95 at 287 (the Cross-Westchester Expressway) and take it over to White Plains, then take 87N across the Tappan Zee Bridge and follow signs for the Garden State Parkway. This will keep you out of the city.
posted by nicwolff at 3:46 PM on August 23, 2005

I think you're grossly underestimating your travel time. Maine to NYC is close to a 6 hour drive.
posted by skwm at 3:51 PM on August 23, 2005

what nicwolff said. The Garden State can still get hairy, but it is nowhere near as bad as the Cross Bronx Expressway and GWB. I've used this route many times from Boston to points south. You can also get on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in CT (right before or after you get on 91- I forget which, but you'll see signs). This turns into the Merritt Parkway, which dumps you onto 287. You skip 95 entirely this way.

Also, buy a Fast Lane / EZ-Pass if you don't have on already. Even if you can't get it before this weekend, you'll appreciate it sooner or later.
posted by bobot at 3:51 PM on August 23, 2005

My main tip would be to start listening to 1010 AM as you drive through the second half of Connecticut. They have traffic reports every 10 minutes.

One route that has worked well for me is: 91 to Wilbur Cross Parkway (it's Rt 15); that turns into the Marritt Parkway. Then take that all the way to NY State where it changes names to Cross County Parkway and take that to the Saw Mill Parkway south which then turns into Henry Hudson Parkway (toll) and then take GW Bridge. Those roads tend to back up less than 95 can. So going over the bridge is normally better. Remember, there's no toll going to NJ from the city, so it's normally somewhat fast even in rush hour.

This route can be harder to follow, after you get into NY. Just follow the signs to GW Bridge in general. This route is prettier than 95 by a lot--both in CT and driving through NYC. The Henry Hudson gives you a great of the river. If you're listening to the traffic and hear the outbound GW is backed up, you can hop on 287 to go to 87 to take the Tappan Zee Bridge.

But, your milage may vary. I've tended to find that the city way works better than the Tappan Zee (my delay is the same or less than what's reported on the radio for Tappan Zee and the city way is fewer miles).
posted by skynxnex at 3:53 PM on August 23, 2005

Another problem you have is that on an August Thursday afternoon it's basically long-weekend rush hour headed south out of Boston towards the Cape starting at like 2 PM. You might take 95 -> 495 around Boston -> 90 -> 84 and then either take 91 back down to 95, or stay on 84 down to 684 and 287.

And, what skwm said re: travel time, and what bobot said about EZ-Pass, and what skynxnex said about 1010 WINS.
posted by nicwolff at 3:58 PM on August 23, 2005

You didn't say what time you need to be in Long Branch. If its early that evening, change your plans. You will probably be seeing traffic all over. Even just taking 36 to your destination. Shore traffic from NYC is the worst, and Central Jersey is swamped by it.
posted by Mroz at 4:07 PM on August 23, 2005

My personal fusion route is Saw Mill parkway to Tappan Zee to Garden State Parkway. But I've only ever used this route while driving all the way through New Jersey on the Jersey Pike.

And yes, pad your time schedules. Traffic will probably be kind of crazy in certain spots and you never know what you're going to run into.

I've done this route several different ways and crazy crap always messes me up. It's probably just my luck, though.
posted by selfnoise at 4:18 PM on August 23, 2005

BTW, if you REALLY want to avoid NYC entirely, you could go Mass Pike to 84 all thru CT across the Newburgh Beacon bridge to 87 to 287 to Rt 18. It's kind of boring though.

And besides 1010, 880 is also good for traffic, and is on the :08's instead of the :01's.
posted by smackfu at 4:18 PM on August 23, 2005

I say stop in the middle for dinner to let traffic pan out. Highway 36 in NJ is a main business thourough fair with lots of lights, yuch. All of the other highways/pikes/routes mentioned all turn into a big mess during rush hour. Give them at least two hours to clear out.
posted by dhammala at 4:55 PM on August 23, 2005

Best answer: I live in Maine and grew up in the Long Branch area of New Jersey. I do this drive several times a year. The Tappan Zee recommendations are indeed the best.

If you decide to use the Wilbur Cross/Meritt approach, be advised that the Meritt is a very narrow, very windy, low-visibility-due-t-big-shady-trees two-lane road constructed in the 30s, yet average speeds are definitely 55 to 75. It makes a lot of people nervous. It is indeed fast and doesn't back up, but this is the reason, so evaluate your cool-headed driving ability before you jump into it, because if you are at all nervous you may be white-knuckling the entire thing.

The advice about 1010 WINS is excellent. Do listen to that as you get ready to choose a Hudson River crossing. Still, it's not likely that the GWB will ever be smooth during the evening hours.

Once in New Jersey, you're best staying on the Parkway down to about exit 100 and then making your way back up to Long Branch - do NOT get off Exit 117 to get on 36 there. There are 35 lights, less than .25 mile apart each, on Route 36 between the exit and the place my folks live in Atlantic Highlands, and that's less than half the distance down 36 you're trying to go. There's both normal rush hour and weekend-beach traffic at that time. You really, really do not want to drive down 36 for any distance whatever.

Take a look at the Parkway exits around 100 -- I believe one of them connects to Route 18. 18 East cruises nicely into Long Branch without too much fooling around. This will be your best route, hands down, at the hour you'll be arriving.

Once you're in Jersey, lose 1010 WINS and switch to New JErsey 101.5 FM. This station will not only give you plenty of gratingly realistic Jersey soul vibe, but has traffic reports that are more tightly customized to drivers trying to get around New Jersey. The New York stations like 1010 don't concern themselves with that.

But I should also say: have a laid-back attitude about this drive. It's not going to be smooth. I've just had to learn to fact facts: this drive takes you through at least three of America's most congested urban/suburban regions, and you're going to hit something, somewhere, that will hold you up. Listen to some great music; be Zen. Allow extra time.
posted by Miko at 5:15 PM on August 23, 2005

OK, here ya go. I have a bit of an error, above.,-74.085960&spn=0.125150,0.240704&num=10&start=0&hl=en

What you want to do here is take the Parkway to the Route 18 exit, but don't get on 18. This is where 36 begins, and it's fine to get on it here --it's certainly your best route. As you see, 36 shoots due East from the parkway into the center of LB.

What I (and others) were worried about is that Google might think Parkway to Exit 117 to 36 South was the best route. It's not. You're looking for Exit 105, Route 36 East, to Eatontown/Long Branch.

It may seem silly that we're obsessing about what happens after you get off the highway, but this is where you can easily lose an hour when you're only 15 miles from your target. That's Jersey!
posted by Miko at 5:23 PM on August 23, 2005

The Tappenzee by default, but definitely once you hit, say, Norwalk, tune into 1010 WINS every ten minutes on the ones. You never know whether its the Tappenzee or the Cross Bronx to GWB that's going to nail you.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:24 PM on August 23, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody! I think I'm just going to print this entire thread and bring it with me, so we can make adjustments on the fly.

For the record, I don't know what I was thinking estimating us at NYC by rush hour, because I certainly know it takes more than 4 hours to get from Portland to the city. Duh, me.

Also, the wedding isn't until Friday afternoon, so no worries on arrival times. (Though it would be nice to get there in time for the free food and booze at the out-of-towners welcome reception on Thursday night ;)

Miko: The Meritt sounds like a wet dream for my husband -- we have a little VW GTI that he loves to drive like a badass/madman. I'll just have to close my eyes and prepare for impact. :)
posted by damn yankee at 5:32 PM on August 23, 2005

Seconding/thirding/fourthing the advice above re: 95-to-Merritt-to-Tappan Zee-to-GSP. And I cannot emphasize enough Miko's advice re: Garden State Parkway exits near Long Branch.

I drove from an area near Newark to Long Branch a month or so ago, and ho-ly shit is she not kidding about the traffic along Rt 36 between the Parkway and Long Branch proper. Or on Rt. 36 between the beach and Atlantic Highlands (going back north along the 'scenic route'), for that matter. Lordy.

Only piece of original advice is very minor: the exit for the Merritt, which is Route 15 as previously mentioned, is also exit number 15. Very handy :) (I spent half a year driving from Western Mass to White Plains and back, once a month...)
posted by cyrusdogstar at 5:36 PM on August 23, 2005

Scratch that, I do have another piece of advice about the Merritt (was reminded of it by your comment, damn yankee). It's still probably the best road to take, but when there's an accident or construction, it backs up like nobody's business due to the two lanes.

My sister once spent like 4 hours just on the Merritt (it's normally a, what, ~1-2 hour drive normally between Hartford and White Plains) because of something-or-other backing up traffic. I didn't envy her (but I did have better luck on my own return trip =)).
posted by cyrusdogstar at 5:39 PM on August 23, 2005

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