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  1. #1

    Default Wisconsin (or Chicago) to DC: I-70 or I-80?

    I live in Madison, WI but will be roadtripping to my see my family in the Washington DC area for the Christmas holiday season this year. Since the quickest way to get from Madison to Chicago (a point along the route) is to take I-39/90 east, due southeast, as far as Chicagoland, that will be the first part of my route, and you helpful folks can consider the question about a route from Chicago east.

    Last year I made this drive only one way in reverse. We opted to take I-70, going across the WV panhandle and into central Ohio. The benefits to this route as I saw them were a lack of tolls, other than the PA turnpike and the IL tollway (but nothing in OH or IN at all), and the decreased likelihood of running into lake-effect snow conditions.

    But the drawback was the time. It took forever! I've made this drive in both directions, and must say that I-80 is faster with traffic/construction or without. Going either direction, we've knocked out the entire thing in under 13 hours, including some congestion in Chicago. On I-70, it took almost 16; partially because of snow in Pennsylvania and pretty much consistently at all points after leaving I-70 for I-65 and points northwest, and partially because Ohio just took SO much longer.

    My question is this: how much do lake effect conditions really affect drive times on I-80 in December? If I can shave 3 hours off the drive, is it worth the risk?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default It Should!

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    Quote Originally Posted by amaisto
    It took forever!
    The fact is you're trying to cover around 850 miles by the shortest route possible! That is NOT a one day journey. Note that professional drivers are forbidden by law from trying to cover more than 600 miles in a day because after that they simply become too tired, too 'highway hypnotized', too enervated to safely drive at all, let alone at highway speeds when surrounded by other traffic. That traffic has every right to expect you to be at your best while operating a two ton vehicle amongst them as well as innocent children. Snow is not the thing that will make this drive unsafe. Your reckless disregard of the need to be alert at the wheel will be.

    Neither is having multiple drivers the answer. There is just no way to get meaningful, refreshing rest in a moving car. At the end of your 13 hour, or 15 hour, or 18 hour drive you will still feel like you've been cooped up in a small noisy box for 13, or 15, or 18 hours. Because you have been! Neither you nor anyone else who has sat through that will be in any shape to drive safely no matter how many times you switch off.

    You need to find a second day to complete this journey safely by car. If you don't, your "worries" about lake effect snow are mere posturing - you simply don't care about being safe. I doubt that you will get any other advice here that varies much from what I've just told you.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I would take 2 full days - and take I-39 to Bloomington, I-74 to Indy, I-70 to Washington PA, I-79 to Morgantown WV, I-68 to Hancock MD, then I-70/I-270 on in to DC. Sure, it takes longer - it also avoids ALL tolls except I-39 in IL and completely bypasses Chicago traffic.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Enjoy the drive.

    Two days over the route laid down by glc is a comfortable and enjoyable drive. I have done it several times. Best you note all the advice above and stay safe.

    Have a safe holiday with your family and take care not to ruin their Christmas.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default The math doesn't work

    Really the only thing I can tell you about the differences between the two travel times you experienced is that either you have miscalculated your travel times, or you were traveling at an an excessively high rate of speed while heading east.

    To make the 850 mile trip in "under 13 hours" you'd have an average speed of more than 65 mph, and with even a minimum amount of traffic, fuel stops, etc, you'd basically have to be traveling at a cruising speed beyond 90 mph for the vast majority of the day.

    Going via I-70 is a bit longer, but only 50 miles, so I can't even guess why that would take you an extra 3 hours. The Trip across Ohio is actually about 20 miles shorter on I-70 vs. I-80, so again, I can't see how it took you quote "so much longer" to cross the state using that route. That said, the 16 hours it took you is a much more realistic time to expect, if you are traveling with 5-10 mph of the posted speed limits.

    So basically, the premise of your question is flawed, I-80 shouldn't "shave off 3 hours" but as with any weather event, even with the chance of Lake Effect snow, it's a bit silly to assume that one route will have better weather than another and/or have more "risk."

    I'll also say that I-90 isn't necessarily the fastest route from Madison to Chicago right now. I-90 is under construction and has a 45 mph speed limit from Rockford to Elgin, so I-88 could be a better choice, and the I-39/I-74 option that others have suggested could very well be faster, depending upon when you'd be traveling through Chicago.

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