WASHINGTON - Drivers headed home from the long holiday weekend were plagued with major delays on Interstate 95 in Virginia on Sunday, due to a series of accidents in Prince William County.
Four separate wrecks occurred in the 2-mile stretch of the interstate's southbound lanes, between the Prince William Parkway and Dale Boulevard between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Each crash occurred in the fast lanes of I-95 and the responders to each incident forced traffic to use a single right lane from late morning until mid- afternoon.
At its height, the backup on I-95 extended from near the Telegraph Road interchange on the Beltway into Woodbridge -- nearly 19 miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Interstate 95 is in high demand this time of the year and delays are common on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, says Jim Battagliese, director of traffic and weather at WTOP.
"The Sunday problem is simple. People try to stay with their family as long as possible after Thanksgiving and leave Sunday, since most need to be back to work or school on Monday. There's not as much flexibility going home as there is in leaving," Battagliese says.
The mishaps on I-95 only affected the southbound drivers headed toward Fredericksburg and Richmond. Northbound travelers experienced volume delays through Caroline, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties.
The High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, or express lanes, were oriented northbound and were not available to southbound drivers.
Corinne Geller, with Virginia State Police, explains that as traffic gets heavier, patience and stopping-distance wanes.
"When you've got heavy traffic, anytime you have one crash, you can have chain reaction crashes," Geller says.
When one incident clears, Geller says some drivers lurch forward to get ahead of the pack. If conditions are right, one crash can lead to another.
"People are suddenly putting their brakes on and folks simply don't have enough space between them and the vehicle in front of them," she says.
"We've had additional state troopers working throughout the holiday weekend to make sure that if we do have crashes like what happened on I-95 today we can get the resources deployed as quickly as possible."
All lanes reopened to traffic on southbound I-95 around 3:30 p.m. When the final accident in the series was cleared from the roadway, the heavy traffic surged downstream through Marine Corps Base Quantico and Stafford County.
The WTOP Traffic Center fielded many calls from frustrated motorists during the ordeal. A caller named Ralph was stuck in the delay and was nearing the final stretch of his trip in southern Stafford County.
"It's brutal. I haven't moved in over 10 minutes," the caller said.
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