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Ithaca NY to Washington DC Roadtrip

Started by dzheng35, June 22, 2024, 12:51:55 PM

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dzheng35

My family plans to visit DC from June 26th to June 30th. I need help deciding on the best route.

1. From Ithaca to the Harrisburg, PA area, should I go to Marathon, NY, to get on and take I-81 on the east side, or should I take NY 13 to I-86 to US 15 in Corning on the west side?

2. Then, from the Harrisburg, PA area to DC, should I take US 15 to I-270 and enter from the west side, or should I take I-83 to I-695, then to MD 295 or I-95 and enter from the east side while having to fight some traffic by going around the Baltimore MD area.

Thank you for your suggestions.


1995hoo

As to question 2, where in the DC area is your specific destination?
"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"
—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

dzheng35

Quote from: 1995hoo on June 22, 2024, 01:25:13 PMAs to question 2, where in the DC area is your specific destination?

Either Chinatown, the Zoo, or a hotel that we're staying in Crystal Springs, VA, depending on weather and time.

Menzador

#3
Quote from: dzheng35 on June 22, 2024, 12:51:55 PM1. From Ithaca to the Harrisburg, PA area, should I go to Marathon, NY, to get on and take I-81 on the east side, or should I take NY 13 to I-86 to US 15 in Corning on the west side?
The second option is quicker, not to mention it takes you past some gorgeous farm country.

If you go through Marathon, NY 392 will take you past Greek Peak and the lovely mountain country there. At the end of NY 392, turn right onto US 11 south.

Got some extra time? Take NY 34 to Waverly and continue on US 220. Go around Milton, PA on 147 to its southern terminus on US 15.

Any way you slice it, are you using I-83? If you are, don't. Stay on US 15. You'll be far better enriched. You'll go past Gettysburg and the gorgeous Catoctin Furnace area of Maryland. Instead of I-270 in Frederick, gawk at the wonder of the mountains and hop on VA 7 to VA 28 to get to Crystal Springs on I-66.

oscar

Quote from: dzheng35 on June 22, 2024, 01:35:02 PM
Quote from: 1995hoo on June 22, 2024, 01:25:13 PMAs to question 2, where in the DC area is your specific destination?

Either Chinatown, the Zoo, or a hotel that we're staying in Crystal Springs, VA, depending on weather and time.

Crystal Springs seems to be somewhere near the Fair Oaks or Fair Lakes shopping centers, or in the outer reaches of the Dulles Airport area. Either way, it's definitely in the western part of the DC metro area. Probably best to take US 15 to I-270, and then I-495 into northern Virginia. I-495 is notorious for congestion problems (not just during rush hour), but connecting via I-270 rather than Baltimore would reduce your exposure to those problems.

The Zoo and Chinatown are in car-unfriendly D.C. proper, far from your hotel. Are you planning to take Metrorail into D.C.? Getting to a Silver Line or Orange Line Metro station from your hotel depends on the hotel's specific location. The Zoo and Chinatown each have their own Metro stations on the Red Line.
my Hot Springs and Highways pages, with links to my roads sites:
http://www.alaskaroads.com/home.html

1995hoo

I had never heard of Crystal Springs and had to look it up, but after seeing where it is, I agree with Oscar about US-15 and I-270 being better. I live south of the Beltway and east of the Springfield Interchange, but when I want to go to Hershey (just east of Harrisburg) I almost always opt for that route. It's just an easier drive, and US-15 has relatively light traffic and is a fairly relaxing stretch of road (I-270, however, definitely is not!). I-83 is fairly busy and its Pennsylvania portion is, like a lot of that state's Interstates, substandard. I-695 is extremely busy and is plagued with extremely aggressive drivers. I just plain do not enjoy going that way. The last time I took I-83, I actually came up from the south on I-97 and went straight through downtown Baltimore to pick up I-83 at its southern beginning in order to complete a clinch. I'll admit the portion between Baltimore's Penn Station and I-695 was a somewhat interesting drive because the terrain surprised me, but aside from that, I have no real desire to use I-83 again.

If instead you mean Crystal City, Virginia, I'd still opt for US-15 and I-270. You might want to avoid the George Washington Memorial Parkway between the Beltway and Route 123, however, because of a significant construction project.

Regarding the National Zoo, if you plan to take the Metrorail to get there, consider getting off at Cleveland Park on your way to the Zoo and then getting back on at Woodley Park/Zoo on your way back. Reason: Cleveland Park is slightly closer and it is a relatively flat walk from there to the Zoo. Woodley Park/Zoo, in contrast, is rather significantly downhill to the south of the Zoo. It's supposed to be pretty darn hot this coming week (as I type this on Saturday afternoon, it's 98°), so making the steep uphill walk en route to the Zoo would not be the ideal way to start your day.
"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"
—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

dzheng35

Quote from: 1995hoo on June 22, 2024, 04:07:30 PMIf instead you mean Crystal City, Virginia

I did mean Crystal City, Virginia. Sorry.

webny99

#7
Quote from: dzheng35 on June 22, 2024, 12:51:55 PMMy family plans to visit DC from June 26th to June 30th. I need help deciding on the best route.

1. From Ithaca to the Harrisburg, PA area, should I go to Marathon, NY, to get on and take I-81 on the east side, or should I take NY 13 to I-86 to US 15 in Corning on the west side?

Definitely the latter! US 15/future I-99 between Corning and Williamsport is a rare freeway that's both high quality and scenic. South of Williamsport, the ongoing CSVT project will eventually connect the PA 147 freeway to the US 15 expressway south of Selinsgrove, which will tip the scales even more in favor of this route when complete.

Parts of I-81 are somewhat scenic too, but it is more nondescript than US 15, and looks to be roughly 15 minutes longer.

davewiecking

Not that it's incredibly relevant, when I did that drive back in the 1980's I would usually take 13, pickup 14 in Elmira, then 15 in Trout Run all the way down to I-270. Definitely quicker than I-81 and 83.

webny99

Quote from: davewiecking on June 22, 2024, 08:19:20 PMNot that it's incredibly relevant, when I did that drive back in the 1980's I would usually take 13, pickup 14 in Elmira, then 15 in Trout Run all the way down to I-270. Definitely quicker than I-81 and 83.

The last miles of US 15 in NY and I believe significant parts of it in PA would have still been 2-lane back in the '90's. Now it's not only a freeway, but a 70 mph one at that. But agreed that it is still faster than I-81/I-83, even if you were to use NY/PA 14.

dzheng35

Quote from: webny99 on June 22, 2024, 08:33:17 PM
Quote from: davewiecking on June 22, 2024, 08:19:20 PMNot that it's incredibly relevant, when I did that drive back in the 1980's I would usually take 13, pickup 14 in Elmira, then 15 in Trout Run all the way down to I-270. Definitely quicker than I-81 and 83.

The last miles of US 15 in NY and I believe significant parts of it in PA would have still been 2-lane back in the '90's. Now it's not only a freeway, but a 70 mph one at that. But agreed that it is still faster than I-81/I-83, even if you were to use NY/PA 14.

Thanks for the advice for the Ithaca to Harrisburg part. But do you know the recommended direction for the Harrisburg to DC section. I wanna say US 15 based on where my hotel is, but depending on if I actually go straight to the hotel the first day and where in DC I end up going as the first stop as well as navigation tell me I-83 otherwise but then, that route would end up risking fighting traffic around Baltimore on I-695.

mrsman

Quote from: dzheng35 on June 22, 2024, 09:30:14 PM
Quote from: webny99 on June 22, 2024, 08:33:17 PM
Quote from: davewiecking on June 22, 2024, 08:19:20 PMNot that it's incredibly relevant, when I did that drive back in the 1980's I would usually take 13, pickup 14 in Elmira, then 15 in Trout Run all the way down to I-270. Definitely quicker than I-81 and 83.

The last miles of US 15 in NY and I believe significant parts of it in PA would have still been 2-lane back in the '90's. Now it's not only a freeway, but a 70 mph one at that. But agreed that it is still faster than I-81/I-83, even if you were to use NY/PA 14.

Thanks for the advice for the Ithaca to Harrisburg part. But do you know the recommended direction for the Harrisburg to DC section. I wanna say US 15 based on where my hotel is, but depending on if I actually go straight to the hotel the first day and where in DC I end up going as the first stop as well as navigation tell me I-83 otherwise but then, that route would end up risking fighting traffic around Baltimore on I-695.

I agree with most of the previous posters that US 15 and I-270 is a better way to get to the DC metro area over I-83 and I-695.  The exception is likely parts of the DC area that are somewhat east or northeast of the Beltway that are sort of on the way to Baltimore like Laurel or Bowie.  US 15 and I-270 is certainly better for the VA suburbs.

1995hoo

BTW. If you plan to drive into DC to go to Chinatown, I recommend parking in the CityCenter garage. Enter either from 11th Street just north of H or from 9th Street (one-way southbound) just south of I. Either way, it's a really big garage, it's less expensive than the Gallery Place garage, and it's easier to get out of than the ones on 8th Street.
"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"
—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

dzheng35

Where is the most convenient parking garage near the National Mall where all the Smithsonian Museums are?

Rothman

Quote from: dzheng35 on June 23, 2024, 05:12:10 PMWhere is the most convenient parking garage near the National Mall where all the Smithsonian Museums are?

At the Greenbelt Metro Station.
Please note: All comments here represent my own personal opinion and do not reflect the official position(s) of NYSDOT.

webny99

Quote from: dzheng35 on June 22, 2024, 09:30:14 PMThanks for the advice for the Ithaca to Harrisburg part. But do you know the recommended direction for the Harrisburg to DC section. I wanna say US 15 based on where my hotel is, but depending on if I actually go straight to the hotel the first day and where in DC I end up going as the first stop as well as navigation tell me I-83 otherwise but then, that route would end up risking fighting traffic around Baltimore on I-695.

I can't speak as in-depth on DC/Baltimore as 1995hoo or Oscar who have both already shared their thoughts upthread, and I certainly have no reason to doubt the consensus that US 15/I-270 is preferred, especially during rush hour. The only exception might be if you're north/east of say Silver Spring and have easy access to I-95 or the Balt-Wash Pkwy, but even then, I would imagine the combination of one of those routes plus the Baltimore Beltway could easily be worse than I-270 at basically any daytime hour.

And despite US 15 having a few non-freeway sections and some stoplights in Dillsburg, I-83 isn't exactly the most enjoyable interstate drive either; it's an OK drive in Maryland but is quite narrow in PA (no surprises there!) and can be a slog in the York area.

dzheng35

More specifically, I think I'll park the car at a parking garage at 560 13th St NW, Washington, DC 20004, or somewhere nearby the first day we arrive. Hopefully, the place where I plan to park can give you road experts a better idea of deciding which route and direction you recommend me to take of the two options I mentioned.

1995hoo

#17
In terms of getting to that parking garage from Crystal City, the easiest route in my opinion is to go over the 14th Street Bridge, bear right to stay on I-395, then take Exit 3 for the 12th Street Tunnel; get in the left lane on the ramp and go through the tunnel, then go straight through the first light (Constitution Avenue) and make a left at the next intersection onto Pennsylvania Avenue. Then take the next right onto 13th Street and turn left into the parking garage. The reason I suggest this route is that going through the tunnel means no traffic lights until you reach Constitution Avenue, whereas if you go up 14th Street there are seven lights between the bridge and Constitution.

Note there is a red-light camera on 12th Street as you come out of the tunnel at Constitution. If instead you use 14th Street, there's a camera at the first light you hit as you enter DC (C Street SW).

If instead you plan to go to that garage immediately upon arrival in the DC area, my suggestion is that you use US-15 to I-270; after you pass the Montrose Road exit, stay right for the I-270 Spur towards Virginia. Merge onto the Beltway and cross into Virginia. Do not enter the express lanes on your left; stay right for the mainline. Take Exit 45B on your left (signed VA-267 East TO I-66 East to Washington). Merge onto I-66 and follow it over the Roosevelt Bridge into DC; stay right on the bridge for Constitution Avenue. Turn left on 15th Street (immediately after you pass the White House on your left and the Washington Monument on your right). Pay attention because the left-turn light at 15th is a very short green arrow. Then at the next light, turn right onto Pennsylvania Avenue; get in the left lane and at the third light, go left onto 13th Street. The reason for using 15th is that you cannot legally turn left from Constitution onto 14th Street. The reason for using the I-66 route instead of the more direct George Washington Memorial Parkway is that the GW Parkway is under construction that reduces the highway to a single lane in the non-peak direction.
"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"
—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

cu2010

I just drove to DC from the North Country yesterday (I'm in Chinatown now), using I-81 and I-83, and it was absolutely miserable. It seems like the entire stretch in PA is under construction and with the heavy truck traffic it was a slog.

So yeah, don't go that way.
This is cu2010, reminding you, help control the ugly sign population, don't have your shields spayed or neutered.

hbelkins

When I drove US 220 from I-180 (the Williamsport area) to the New York state line, I found it to be an absolutely miserable drive. The only reason I drove it was to clinch US 220 in Pennsylvania. I wouldn't drive it again unless I was forced to.


Government would be tolerable if not for politicians and bureaucrats.

dzheng35

Quote from: cu2010 on June 25, 2024, 02:48:17 PMI just drove to DC from the North Country yesterday (I'm in Chinatown now), using I-81 and I-83, and it was absolutely miserable. It seems like the entire stretch in PA is under construction and with the heavy truck traffic it was a slog.

So yeah, don't go that way.

The entire stretch of which highway. I-83, I-81, or both?

webny99

I've never been on the section of I-81 between Scranton and Hazleton, but Google Maps traffic indicates that it's a perpetual slog with daily backups of some sort, whether it be slow trucks, construction, or otherwise.

I seem to recall that parts of I-83 are also being widened in the York area, so I wouldn't be surprised if both routes were a slog.

webny99

Quote from: hbelkins on June 25, 2024, 05:05:24 PMWhen I drove US 220 from I-180 (the Williamsport area) to the New York state line, I found it to be an absolutely miserable drive. The only reason I drove it was to clinch US 220 in Pennsylvania. I wouldn't drive it again unless I was forced to.

Fortunately for you, with US 15 now being a 70 mph freeway in PA, there should never be a reason to use US 220 as part of a long distance road trip again. US 15 effectively replaces both US 219 and US 220 for long haul traffic in northern PA.

US 219 is sometimes still recommended between Buffalo/southern Ontario and the DC area, but even that should no longer be the case once the CSVT project is complete - and even if it's a toss-up time-wise, anyone who's driven both routes would know that US 219, much like 220, is a highly questionable choice for a long trip, and US 15 is vastly superior in every imaginable way - including scenery, despite US 219 being a two lane highway.

cu2010

Quote from: webny99 on June 25, 2024, 08:00:59 PMI've never been on the section of I-81 between Scranton and Hazleton, but Google Maps traffic indicates that it's a perpetual slog with daily backups of some sort, whether it be slow trucks, construction, or otherwise.

I seem to recall that parts of I-83 are also being widened in the York area, so I wouldn't be surprised if both routes were a slog.

The entire stretch between Scranton and Harrisburg was awful. Took about 2 1/2 hours to go 100 miles. At least four massive backups due to construction.

It's at the point where I'm debating paying the $35 or so in tolls to take the Northeast Extension instead on the return trip (I'm on a work trip, I can get the tolls reimbursed).

I-83 wasn't as bad, traffic at least moved, though the PA section is so substandard it felt like 65 is too fast at times.
This is cu2010, reminding you, help control the ugly sign population, don't have your shields spayed or neutered.

1995hoo

Regarding the Northeast Extension, if reimbursement matters to you, make sure your employer doesn't have a rule about only reimbursing the most direct route. Most employers who have such a policy will reimburse that amount and no more, so in your case you'd be free to take the Northeast Extension but would not be reimbursed for the extra distance or the tolls. (Though I don't know whether "horrible backups due to construction" might be deemed a valid reason for going a different way. "Most direct route was shut down due to multi-car accident in snowstorm" worked for me once, though I had to attach a news report substantiating the closure.) For what it's worth, I used the Northeast Extension and the southern part of I-476 the last time I drove north and I quite liked it. I'd go that way again in preference to I-81.
"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"
—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.



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