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Best way to get down the Atlantic Seaboard
Old 12-27-2016, 03:54 PM   #1
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Best way to get down the Atlantic Seaboard

DW will be retiring March 1, and we will be heading from Upstate NY down to Florida ASAP after that. Our route will take us down to Harrisburg PA.
In the past I used to take the route through Charlotte, but friends in Charlotte advise me that traffic through there is awful now. Population explosion has outdone the existing Interstate system, and gridlock is a daily occurrence.

i am seeking advice from FIRE road warriors who make the pilgrimage. I will eventually need to get to I-95 into the Jacksonville area, and on down to The Villages, Florida.

Thanks!
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Old 12-27-2016, 06:20 PM   #2
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If you're used to going through Charlotte, just vary your time where you come through the city in non-rush hour. Spend the night on the north side, and get up early to beat the traffic. Or, come through at 8:00 p.m. and stay just over the South Carolina state line.

Another route that's far more scenic is to go through Harrisburg and catch I-81 that takes you through the Shenandoah Valley all the way to Tennessee. You could go left just past Bristol and go via interstate through Asheville, NC and eventually through Atlanta area. You'd have to choose the time to go through there too to avoid rush hour. But it's a much more beautiful and pleasurable route to travel. The Villages is also easily reached from the north via I-75 to Wildwood and Leesburg.
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Old 12-27-2016, 07:40 PM   #3
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I usually take 81 to 83 in Harrisburg pick up 95 off 695 in Baltimore and just deal with the nightmare that is 95 traffic till it peters out around Fredricksburg.
A few times I just stayed on 81 to 64 and pick up 95 at Richmond.
You could always turn it into a week long trip and take 1 most of the way.

Enjoy the drive!
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Old 12-27-2016, 08:23 PM   #4
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485 goes all the way around Charlotte now. There are daily bottle necks, but those can be easily avoided. Check maps.google.com and put in the time of day you're passing through, just to make sure you don't get stuck. But realistically, even if you hit at a bad time, if you spend more than an extra 20 minutes, I'd be surprised. Its much smaller than an Atlanta or Chicago snarl, for instance.
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Old 12-28-2016, 06:08 AM   #5
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I routinely drive I-81 between Roanoke and I-66 to D.C. Traffic is well over the capacity of the road, especially trucks, and wrecks happen almost daily causing long backups. But if you time it mid to late morning you can usually miss some of the congestion. Be sure to use Waze or Google Maps to keep informed so you can take action to get around it, or just take a break while it clears.

This is one of my chief motivations for ER, actually.
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Old 12-28-2016, 07:08 AM   #6
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I routinely drive I-81 between Roanoke and I-66 to D.C. Traffic is well over the capacity of the road, especially trucks, and wrecks happen almost daily causing long backups. But if you time it mid to late morning you can usually miss some of the congestion. Be sure to use Waze or Google Maps to keep informed so you can take action to get around it, or just take a break while it clears.

This is one of my chief motivations for ER, actually.
I first started driving this route in the early 1980s when my kids were little, for Spring Break trips to Edisto Island, SC. It was lovely driving, not particularly congested. It was way better than I-95.
I got divorced, kids grew up, and I didn't drive it for 25 years, and drove it last year. Wow. What a difference. Trucks, Trucks, Trucks. From what I hear there is just so much truck traffic moving up and down the interstates from the Northeast to the Southeast, and back and forth, that there really is no way to avoid it. Other than to fly. But that comes with its own sack of issues.
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Old 12-28-2016, 07:09 AM   #7
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There are lots of accidents on 81, period. It is a major trucking route, and they go way to fast.

An alternative south of Harrisburg is to take 15 south then cut over to I 95 wherever you want. Only a small portion of the road isn't highway. The scenery is wonderful and there are very few trucks. Cool places to visit along the way are Gettysburg and Montpelier, James Madison's home, as well as Monticello, which is a little farther off the route.

I live near Harrisburg, and routinely drove 81 south to visit DS in college. I used to take 83 south to 695 to get to DC and south. 15 is way better.
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Old 12-28-2016, 08:21 AM   #8
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There are lots of accidents on 81, period. It is a major trucking route, and they go way to fast.

An alternative south of Harrisburg is to take 15 south then cut over to I 95 wherever you want. Only a small portion of the road isn't highway. The scenery is wonderful and there are very few trucks. Cool places to visit along the way are Gettysburg and Montpelier, James Madison's home, as well as Monticello, which is a little farther off the route.

I live near Harrisburg, and routinely drove 81 south to visit DS in college. I used to take 83 south to 695 to get to DC and south. 15 is way better.

How is I-95 from Fredericksburg on south? Is it any better than 81 and 77?
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Old 12-28-2016, 09:15 AM   #9
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How is I-95 from Fredericksburg on south? Is it any better than 81 and 77?
South of Fredericksburg it is fine. I usually take the 295 around the east side of Richmond to avoid some of that congestion. The freeway just north of Harrisburg PA sucks. Drove through there yesterday afternoon. Always traffic. The 83 through York is a cattle shoot. Concrete barriers dividing the north and southbound lanes only a few feet from the #1 lane.

I was an Urban planner for undergrad. We studied the D.C. area on what NOT to do. The 95 should be 8 lanes each way from the NE to at least the N.C. border. Then 6 down to Florida.
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Old 12-28-2016, 09:31 AM   #10
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An alternative south of Harrisburg is to take 15 south then cut over to I 95 wherever you want. Only a small portion of the road isn't highway. The scenery is wonderful and there are very few trucks. Cool places to visit along the way are Gettysburg and Montpelier, James Madison's home, as well as Monticello, which is a little farther off the route.
+1

15 south passes through where a lot of historic Civil Ware activities took place, so if you are into that history there are many places to explore. The non-highway portions between Frederick, MD. and Leesburg, VA can be congested during morning and evening rush hour times (many use this route as a "back road" commute from Maryland to Northern VA, or to Dulles Airport) but from mid-morning to mid-afternoon it is usually fine).

You can take it to route 17 in VA< which will cut across to Fredericksburg into I-95 to bypass the I-95 congestion between DC and Virginia.
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Old 12-28-2016, 09:56 AM   #11
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+1 to the comments about the time of day being very important, mostly avoiding the morning and evening commute times. And I wouldn't take a local's complaints about Charlotte too seriously unless they really know how it compares to the DC area, or Atlanta. North/South on the east coast is trouble no matter which way you go.


I wouldn't take my comments about Charlotte too seriously either, since I haven't driven thru there in years. Figure out about what time of day you'd go through, and take a look at traffic cams and reports around that time for a few days to get an idea for yourself, and look at your specific route options, not where your friends might be driving.


Plugging your start/finish points into Google Maps, I-95 is the fastest route but you have to deal with DC and 95 can be heavy traffic all the way, especially DC to Richmond. I-81/I-77 is 27 minutes slower but you have Charlotte, and 81 is a big truck route as someone mentioned, and they can bog things down on the hills. I-81/US-29/I-74/I-95 probably is another 9 minutes slower but Greensboro is probably better than Charlotte or DC to go through. US-29 isn't freeway much of the way in Virginia if that matters, but it is a pretty good drive.


Someone mentioned going thru Atlanta, but that's 2+ extra hours and I seriously doubt Atlanta is any better than Charlotte.
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Old 12-28-2016, 10:31 AM   #12
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+1

15 south passe through where a lot of historic Civil Ware activities took place, so if you are into that history there are lot of places to explore. The non-highway portions between Frederick, MD. and Leesburg, VA can be congested during morning and evening rush hour times (many use this route as a "back road" commute from Maryland to Northern VA, or to Dulles Airport) but from mid-morning to mid-afternoon it is usually fine).

You can take it to route 17 in VA< which will cut across to Fredericksburg into I-95 to bypass the I-95 congestion between DC and Virginia.
I used to take this route as well. It was a long time ago, like early-mid 1980s. What you describe fits my memory. I was a little hesitant to try this now, figuring what's happened to the Northern VA population since then.
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Old 12-28-2016, 10:39 AM   #13
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Agree with others that I-85 is not that bad if you avoid rush hours. I routinely travel that stretch so that I hit it around 10AM and seldom have any issues. The biggest problem is actually the road construction (widening) between Kannapolis and Charlotte, not Charlotte itself. That project seems to be one of those "everlasting" ones.... although once finished, I'm sure it will be great.
Personally, I don't think I-95 is that bad either, if you manage to clear Metro DC during off-hours. The rest is fine.
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Old 12-28-2016, 11:51 AM   #14
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I drove this route on I-77 last February from Toronto down to SE Georgia. Will do so again in a couple months on the same route.

Traffic through Charlotte was bad but not terrible (we went down through during evening rush and back during lunch time). It added maybe 20 mins - half hour to our drive. Nothing to get overly stressed about, in my opinion. Especially compared to worrying about snow through the Appalachians.
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Old 12-28-2016, 12:16 PM   #15
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The biggest problem is actually the road construction (widening) between Kannapolis and Charlotte, not Charlotte itself. That project seems to be one of those "everlasting" ones.... although once finished, I'm sure it will be great.

Having traveled I-30/I-40 through Arkansas fairly often for 33+ years, I've come to the conclusion that Arkansas is a Native American term for "road construction"...

Not at all familiar with that particular corridor, though I can't imagine getting through Charlotte could be worse than getting through Atlanta..
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