Rant & Rail: The Thanksgiving Commute

Rant & Rail: The Thanksgiving Commute
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Rant & Rail: The Thanksgiving Commute

42 million people drove to visit family and friends during Thanksgiving weekend. WNPR’s Neena Satija joined them this year, but before leaving, she paid a visit to the state department of transportation to get the insider’s guide to holiday traffic. 

It wasn’t my idea to drive from my home in New Haven to my parent’s home near Washington, D.C. Normally, I’d take the train and then the bus. But, it was time for my dad to complete his yearly check-up on my car. So to get some advice on beating the famous holiday traffic, I asked Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick to take introduce me to the experts.

This center, known as the HOC, is staffed 24-7 with people monitoring traffic in real-time. One wall is almost entirely covered in big screens showing various state highways, and I found myself wincing as I watched traffic build up along the wall. The HOC staff was bracing for a long weekend. Rick DeMatties has worked here since the center was created more than 15 years ago.

"It’s actually two days before Thanksgiving that the rush hour traffic is heavier than the day before Thanksgiving," he says.'

I visited on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and DeMatties turned out to be right. A terrible accident later that day closed I-84 east for nearly eight hours. My concern was that leaving early Wednesday morning might tie me up in the morning rush hour on 95-South.

DeMatties told me that, “Typically, it’s not the morning rush hour, it’s the afternoon rush hour that’s the problem." And, he recommended I take a look at the live traffic camera views on the state’s web site.

Early the next morning, I-95 looked clear. So I headed out by 6:30 a.m. on. We hit some traffic on our way to New York, but otherwise, things went smoothly. With a couple of short stops, we were home by 1:30. By that point, the camera view of I-95 in Connecticut showed I’d left at the right time. 

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