Thanksgiving Traffic Trouble Spots: What to Look For on NJ Roads
TRENTON — Road work shouldn't cause traffic problems over the Thanksgiving holiday period, which unofficially starts on Wednesday and lasts through Sunday night. But there are a few spots to be aware of both in and out of New Jersey, especially if you are traveling in unfamiliar territory.
"All scheduled work on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and other highways will be suspended starting Wednesday with as many lanes open as possible.," New Jersey Fast Traffic North's Bob Williams said, adding that the Bayonne Bridge will be open in both directions.
WPG Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said rain will start falling over New Jersey on Wednesday night, but he is still watching the track of the storm for the exact impact.
"At best, travel conditions will be wet for part of Wednesday evening and Thursday. At worst, roads will be somewhat icy and slippery and visibility will be reduced during periods of snowfall snowfall, especially north of Route 80 which could see some sleet and freezing rain as the precipitation starts," Zarrow said.
"Unlike the weather forecast you can't predict accidents," traffic reporter Jill Myra said. She advised starting your trip as early in the morning as possible. She also said Sunday could be the worst travel day as everyone heads home at the same time, while the start of the holiday travel period is more spread out.
New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman Steven Schapiro said drivers should slow down through construction zones as lanes will be narrower than usual.
"Leave extra time and be patient as there will be extra traffic on the road. Be courteous and you'll get where you're going," Schapiro said.
Gary Poedubicky, acting director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety Driver, said avoiding distraction while driving is important — especially in unfamiliar areas.
"Inattention has been the number one cause of fatal crashes in the state for past six years, five straight years, hitting an all-time high in 2014, according to the latest available statistics from the New Jersey State Police. That year, of the 582 drivers involved in fatal crashes, distraction was a factor in 190 of them," Poedubicky said. “When you're behind the wheel, especially in heavy holiday traffic, your attention must be on the road at all times.
"Texting, talking on the phone, or engaging in any other activity – even for a split second – can result in tragedy.”
Some key areas to watch for around the state:
- 42 Freeway/Interstate 295 Reconfiguration: This could be the biggest trouble spot for those unfamiliar with the changes at the intersection made this year. "Route 295 is especially confusing on the southbound side heading for 42," Myra said. Schapiro said that everything is well-signed through the ongoing project. "Traffic moves through there every rush hour without problems. Some of the ramps might be different than they were a year ago," Schapiro said.
- Interstates 78/287: Work has started on moving the existing ramp from Route 78 eastbound to Route 287 northbound in Bedminster from the left side of the highway to the right. "There's a slight lane shift in both directions. Be especially attentive in this after," Williams said.
- The Flemington Circle, where Routes 12, 202 and 31 meet, is also under construction. "Lanes are very narrow through here with no shoulder and it's a confusing configuration," Williams said. This will be crowded on Friday as shoppers head to the outlets and shopping areas along the highway. Schapiro said all lanes will be open during the Thanksgiving holiday.
- Route 31 in Pennington: A bridge deck is being replaced narrowing the lanes in both directions according to Williams. "Don't blink otherwise you'll be driving into oncoming traffic before you know it." Schapiro said wide loads are prohibited from using the short overpass.
- Meadowlands: The Jets host the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium at 4:25 p.m., meaning delays heading out of the Meadowlands area on Sunday will add even more traffic to the Turnpike and Parkway.
NJ Transit said it will offer "early getaway" rail and bus service and extra service on Thursday for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. It will operate on a modified weekday schedule on Friday.
Leaving New Jersey, all lanes will also be open across both directions of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. All construction activity will be suspended beginning Wednesday for the Thanksgiving holiday period,Delaware River and Bay Authority spokesman Jim Salmon said. Work will resume on Nov. 29,
Heading north, drivers may encounter cashless tolls heading for the Tappan Zee Bridge in Rockland County. The toll plaza in Westchester County has been torn down and replaced by an EZ Pass reader on the opposite side that reads the transponders and license plates at highway speed. A bill will be sent to those without EZ Pass.
Cashless tolls are also in effect on the Massachusetts Turnpike, with toll plazas in the process of being torn down. Vehicles will be channeled to the outside lanes of the plaza and guided through the former toll lanes with a speed limit of 15 mph.