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Heavy traffic expected around Philadelphia this Memorial Day: What to know before hitting the road

Jersey Shore visitors cut Memorial Day weekend short to beat traffic and bad weather
Jersey Shore visitors cut Memorial Day weekend short to beat traffic and bad weather 02:55

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Memorial Day is shaping up to be an extremely busy holiday travel weekend in Philadelphia, both on the road and at the airport.

AAA predicts more than half a million people in the Philly area will travel throughout the weekend, 90% of which are expected to drive to their destinations. At Philadelphia International Airport, TSA expects to screen between 3,000-10,000 more people per day throughout the weekend.

If you're heading out of town, or heading back to the Delaware Valley, here's what you need to know.

When are the best and worst times to start driving?

 AAA and transportation data provider INRIX say overall, it's best to start your drive early Friday to avoid running into commuter traffic. They say the worst times to travel are between noon and 7 p.m. on May 24, while the best time to travel is before 11 a.m. and after 8 p.m.

If you're waiting until Saturday to hit the road, the busiest time is typically between 2-5 p.m., while the best times are before 1 p.m. or after 6 p.m.

On Sunday, AAA and INRIX say the worst time to travel is between 3-7 p.m., and the best time is before 1 p.m.

On your return trip Monday, May 27 the worst times to travel are between 3 and 7 p.m., and the best time to drive is after 7 p.m.

However, when looking specifically at Philadelphia, INRIX projects that peak congestion on I-95 south will start Friday at 7:30 a.m.

Frank Farley Service Plaza in Hammonton, NJ, is a sure sign you're almost to the Jersey Shore 02:50

Will weather impact shore traffic?

If you're heading back to the Philadelphia area from the Jersey Shore, keep an eye on the radar. A band of strong and potentially severe storms is moving east across the state on Monday, and while a few scattered showers could continue through lunchtime, the main event will approach the area in the afternoon and early evening.

The timing will vary a bit, but by around 1 p.m. this storm system will reach the Lehigh Valley. The line of storms looks to move off shore between 6 and 7 p.m., so expect the hours between then to be fairly rainy and stormy.

Philadelphia is set to see the greatest impact between 2-5 p.m., while the Jersey Shore and Delaware will be hit the hardest from 3-6 p.m.

Storm timing
Storm timing CBS Philadelphia

Drivers hit bands of traffic coming home from the shore

Throughout the afternoon on Monday, traffic backed up at times on the Atlantic City Expressway heading toward Philadelphia.

AAA predicted peak travel on Memorial Day would be between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Jason Richardson hit the road well before that, noting traffic from Ventnor wasn't too bad.

"I'm hoping I kind of beat the super rush that's going to be later on. Maybe everyone left early because of the weather?" Richardson said.  

But the unsettled weather wasn't the reason everyone cut the holiday weekend short.

"We're actually from Buffalo, so we're heading all the way back as far as you can get," Rob Dubois said. 

That's why he left Ocean City at 10 a.m. Monday.

It's a seven-hour drive back to western New York for Dubois and his son.

"Just got to get home, it's a long day," Dubois said. 

Weather, traffic slow Memorial Day travel in Philadelphia region 01:59

Travelers said the long drives were worth the memories they made. 

"We went to the beach. We also went to the boardwalk. Did a couple of carnival rides and everything and then we got ice cream in the end," one traveler said. 

"I went to a memorial ceremony at the Rhode Island Veteran's Cemetery and then just kind of hung out the rest of the weekend,"  said Frank Moody, who said driving through Manhattan Monday was "an absolute nightmare." 

"We have a rental house where we were getting ready for renters to come in next week," said Steve Farrell, who lives in Downingtown. We are right on the beach, so it was nice weather and we got to enjoy the ocean and ocean breezes and the sun and the sand," he said. 

Chickie's and Pete's covering tolls on the Atlantic City Expressway

On Friday, May 24 from 4-5 p.m., Chickie's and Pete's is covering tolls for drivers traveling on the Atlantic City Expressway through the Egg Harbor Exit.

The restaurant will be paying cash and EZ Pass tolls for all eastbound travelers.

Philadelphia travelers prepare for busy roads and airports ahead of Memorial Day weekend 02:36

Pennsylvania and New Jersey traffic cameras

Want to check your route before hitting the road? Drivers can keep an eye on the roads using PennDOT and NJDOT's online traffic cameras.

Traffic near the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge: I-95 @ MM 29.2 (SOUTH OF COTTMAN AVE)

Traffic near the Betsy Ross Bridge: ARAMINGO AVE & I-95 RAMPS (D06-C440)

Traffic near the Benjamin Franklin Bridge: I-676 EB @ 8TH STREETI-676 @ 22ND ST (BEN FRANKLIN PKWY)

Traffic near the Walt Whitman Bridge: I-95 @ NB EXIT 19 (WALT WHITMAN BRIDGE)

Traffic along the Atlantic City Expressway: NJ 42 at NJ 41, NJ 42 at Atlantic City Expressway

How early should I get to PHL Airport before my flight?

Philadelphia International Airport expects a 5% increase in passenger volume compared to 2023, and according to Gerardo Spero, the TSA's federal security director for PHL, "the most important things that travelers can do is to get to the airport early and come prepared to go through the checkpoint screening process."

On Monday alone, the airport says it expects to have nearly 85,000 arriving and departing passengers at PHL. On Tuesday, May 28, PHL expects that number to be even higher at 90,000.

For domestic flights, TSA says travelers should get to the airport at least two hours ahead of their departure time. For international, flights, they recommend three hours.

American Airlines, which has a hub in Philadelphia, expects to see more than 162,000 passengers on more than 1,500 flights between May 23-28 at PHL, about 24% more departing fliers than last year.

Where to park at PHL Airport

If you're driving to the airport, PHL recommends building in extra travel time, as highways and roads near the complex will get crowded and likely backed up.

The Economy Lot at PHL has 3,600 spaces available on a first come, first served basis.

Additional parking is available at the PHL Airport garages, which are run by the Philadelphia Parking Authority and patrolled by the Airport Police Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department. Availability in Garages A-F are updated every 15 minutes on the PPA's airport parking website.

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