Memorial Day holiday weekend travel woes begin

The Memorial Day holiday weekend is upon us and so are the infamous traffic delays that it brings to area roads and airports.

"This is going to be the biggest travel weekend since 2005, which is the last time gas prices were this low," said Jonathan Grella, with the U.S. Travel Association. "There are going to be 38 million people traveling this weekend, creating $12 billion worth of economic activity."

But with that many people taking to the skies and hitting the highways - along come the delays.

Backups started early Thursday morning for drivers heading to Maryland's Eastern Shore. Police closed all eastbound lanes of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for nearly two hours after a distraught man left his car running and climbed onto a steel girder. Backups several miles long snarled traffic while rescue crews worked to help the man to safety. The bridge reopened to traffic around 8 a.m.

The Bay Bridge is the main artery connecting Washington, D.C. and Baltimore to the Eastern Shore. Traditionally, holiday weekend backups along Route 50 would begin on Friday. But more recently, Thursday has become the busiest road travel day. Traffic experts say that between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the Thursday before Memorial Day is now the worse time for motorists to set out on their trip as many leave early to get a head-start on the weekend.

If you do get caught in a traffic jam - don't lose your cool. Local police say they will be targeting aggressive drivers who are making frequent and unsafe lane changes and who are tailgating.

In airports around the country, long lines at TSA checkpoints have led to an increase in PreCheck registrations. Grella says that registrations are at nearly 16,000 per day - up from around 3,000 several weeks ago. "Right now, about 2.5 million people are members of pre-check," he said. "The government wants that to get up to 25 million."

Grella says the three major airports in our region - Baltimore Washington International, Washington Dulles International, and Reagan National Airport - fare well when compared to others in the country in avoiding delays and congestion.

Here are some tips Grella says you can use at local airports.

Signing Up For TSA PreCheck
- Complete an application (online or in person)
- Schedule an appointment at an application center
- Visit application center to provide required documents, get fingerprinted, show passport or driver's license / birth certificate, and pay $85 fee

Avoid Long Lines
- Pack light
- Use social media for alerts & guidance
- Sign up for TSA PreCheck or global entry
- Scout out alternate checkpoints & ask a TSA agent
- Fly Tuesday or Wednesday

Common Mistakes
- Checking bags
- Flying at peak travel hours
- Showing up late, especially for international flights