When to leave to beat holiday traffic jams on I-81; Peak travel times in Virginia

We’re told some lanes will be reopened in construction zones, patience is key

VIRGINIA – Road work and an influx of travelers could make for a travel nightmare this holiday season.

“It’s going to be a very busy weekend on the roadways,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic Spokesperson Morgan Dean.

Peak travel days are Wednesday and Sunday with 1.3 million Virginia drivers expected to hit the roads.

Dean said if you want to miss the rush, try to leave earlier or push your trip home to the Monday after Thanksgiving.

He recommended leaving before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m. on Wednesday and leaving before 11 a.m. or after 8 p.m. on Sunday.

“You may have a better chance at missing some of that traffic,” said Dean.

VDOT Spokesperson Jason Bond said temporary lane closures will be lifted ahead of the holiday to reduce traffic impacts. The closures will begin to reopen starting at noon Wednesday.

However, other work zones - like the one along Interstate 81 from Salem to Roanoke - will remain in place.

“The shoulders are currently closed with a barrier wall through that stretch of interstate in both directions. There is some congestion through there. We have seen some crashes through there in recent months,” said Bond. “It’s very important to obey the posted speed limit, use extra caution in that work zone, and do avoid changing lanes unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

Bond said that stretch of I-81 is one of the most heavily traveled in Virginia all year round. Both experts said patience is key.

“Be prepared for backups, and delays. Do what you can to avoid them. But also recognize the fact there are going to be a lot of people out on the roadways. And you’re probably going to be in some of those. So I think setting your mind that way before you ever even leave your driveway or the parking spot can help you, kind of, mentally get through all of those things,” said Dean.

VDOT also has an interactive travel-trends map that shows peak congestion periods anticipated on Virginia interstates during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday period.

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!