Driving Routes That'll Be a Nightmare with Holiday Traffic
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13 Most Congested Highways in the U.S.

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Driving Routes That'll Be a Nightmare with Holiday Traffic
Ditty_about_summer/shutterstock

DRIVE YOU CRAZY

Whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, or the Fourth of July, traveling over the holidays almost always means one thing: sitting in traffic. There are ways to avoid this curse, such as hitting the road at 5 a.m., or at midnight -- long before or after peak traffic times -- or choosing alternate, less-traveled routes. To help prepare for a holiday road trip, here are some of the most notoriously congested stretches of highway across America, where the GPS might send you but you don't want to go.

Interstate 95 from New York City to Washington, DC
Natalia Bratslavsky/shutterstock

INTERSTATE 95 FROM NEW YORK CITY TO WASHINGTON, DC

By some accounts this 225-mile trek becomes the slowest stretch of highway in the country. With 8.5 million people living in New York City, even if just a small fraction opt to hit the road and head south for the holidays it translates into quite the mass of traffic.

I-4 in Altamonte Springs
I-4 in Altamonte Springs by Xavier6984 (CC BY-SA)

INTERSTATE 4 ACROSS FLORIDA

Interstate 4 crosses central Florida and is busy most of the year, says Sheila Berrios, owner of the Golden Age Trips travel agency. But then come the holidays. "During holidays weekends it is almost a parking lot from Celebration to downtown Orlando," she says. "This interstate has all the exits that take you to Florida's theme parks and other tourist destinations such as Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios in Orlando. So during holidays it is not only crowded by locals who are off work, but also thousands of tourists."

Interstate 95 South in Washington, DC
Courtesy of fredericksburg.com

INTERSTATE 95 SOUTH IN WASHINGTON, DC

There's lots of reasons to avoid this highway. "If you haven't traveled the bottleneck that is the I-95 corridor south of Washington, DC, on a Friday, during any major holiday weekend, or whenever it rains, sleets, or snows, consider yourself lucky," says Washington D.C. resident Taryn White, creator of the travel blog TripWishList.com. "I'm sure I've taken years off my life from crawling along I-95 south."

Borman Expressway Interstates 80 and 94, the Tri-State Tollway, in Chicago
Courtesy of aaroads.com

BORMAN EXPRESSWAY INTERSTATES 80 AND 94, THE TRI-STATE TOLLWAY, IN CHICAGO

The intersection of three busy roads draws big rigs in addition to passenger cars, and flooding of the Little Calumet River in recent years has closed the tollways.

Interstate 110 Southbound in Los Angeles
Courtesy of wikipedia.org

INTERSTATE 110 SOUTHBOUND IN LOS ANGELES

Los Angeles is notorious for its smog and traffic congestion, so it stands to reason that this city and its downtown highway, which includes traffic from the Port of Los Angeles, would be among the most frightful come holiday season. Bad even on a good day, it compelled a frustrated driver to improve exit markers on his own in 2001 -- changes transportation officials adopted when they finally found out.

Van Wyck Interstate 678 Northbound in New York
Courtesy of interstate-guide.com

VAN WYCK INTERSTATE 678 NORTHBOUND IN NEW YORK

A report by the Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University determined that 690,000 hours are wasted each year by commuters stuck in traffic along this stretch of road. And it's only 3.1 miles long.

Eastshore Freeway in Berkeley
Eastshore Freeway in Berkeley by Minesweeper (CC BY-SA)

EASTBOUND INTERSTATE 80 TO SACRAMENTO AND TAHOE FROM SAN FRANCISCO

One of the most popular routes out of San Francisco, the highway is engulfed around Thanksgiving with travelers using the road to get to Lake Tahoe ski destinations. But if any actual winter weather strikes, the Interstate 80 can quickly become a traffic disaster.

The San Diego Freeway, near the interchange with the Ventura Freeway (U.S. Route 101)
The San Diego Freeway, near the interchange with the Ventura Freeway (U.S. Route 101) by Coolcaesar (CC BY-SA)

INTERSTATE 405/SAN DIEGO FREEWAY NORTHBOUND IN LOS ANGELES

There is no good time to travel the 405, locals will tell you. At midnight, partiers getting out of clubs hit the roads; at dawn, it's just filled with countless other people trying to beat rush hour traffic. Texas A&M says commuters waste about 965,000 hours a year going just 13 miles.

Looking south along the Chrysler Freeway to the Detroit skyline
Looking south along the Chrysler Freeway to the Detroit skyline by Sean_Marshall (CC BY-SA)

NORTHBOUND US-23 AND NORTHBOUND INTERSTATE 75 MERGER IN DETROIT

Detroit is home to America's car manufacturers, so it's not shocking there are a lot of cars on the road. A notorious stretch of highway is US-23 Northbound near Flint, which attracts people headed to northern Michigan's forests for hunting and getaways.

The "Weston tolls" that separated the Western Turnpike from the Boston Extension, October 2006
The "Weston tolls" that separated the Western Turnpike from the Boston Extension, October 2006 by freakapotimus (CC BY)

MASSACHUSETTS TURNPIKE WEST FROM BOSTON TO INTERSTATE 84 IN STURBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS

This 56-mile stretch connects Boston to the rest of the East Coast and is normally an hourlong drive. Holiday travel makes into a traffic nightmare.

I-75 co-signed with I-85 in downtown Atlanta, GA
I-75 co-signed with I-85 in downtown Atlanta, GA by Atlantacitizen (CC BY-SA)

INTERSTATE 285 BETWEEN INTERSTATES 75 AND 85 IN ATLANTA

Another city that makes headlines for monumental traffic tie-ups, Atlanta is home to six major interstates. Interstate 285 is among the busiest, but they all draw holiday travelers, and even the slightest bit of rain or snow can cause major jams.

I 30-35 Signs
I 30-35 Signs by Jimmy Emerson, DVM (CC BY-NC-ND)

INTERSTATE 35 IN DALLAS

About half of Dallas' metro area residents live along Interstate 35, and too many pack up the family and hit this 50-mile stretch of highway at once during the holidays.

The Palmetto Expressway northbound near Hialeah in metropolitan Miami
The Palmetto Expressway northbound near Hialeah in metropolitan Miami by Averette (CC BY)

PALMETTO EXPRESSWAY NEAR MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Sprawling Miami has its fair share of traffic jams. Nowhere is that more evident than on the Palmetto Expressway, one of the busiest roads in the city, and particularly from Okeechobee Road to south of the Dolphin Expressway. The situation is worsened with the travelers arriving from Miami International Airport.