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Old Nov 29, 10, 6:56 am   #1
 
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Driving NJ to Buffalo - 29th December- Best Route?

Hi

I am travelling to the US on 28th and I have hired a car to drive from NJ to Niagara on 29th December. I realise that flying was also an option, but in my personal situation driving suits better.

Taking this into account, can you please advise what would be the safest route for me to take. Google maps provides various options, however I am aware that the weather at that time of year may not be the best.

Taking potential weather impacts into consideration (assume snow), what would be the best route to take?

Many thanks

Alan
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Old Nov 29, 10, 8:53 am   #2
 
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You don't say where in NJ you are starting from. Assuming it will be Newark, I would just do the simplest thing and take I-80 west into Pennsylvania, then take I-380 west/north to Scranton, then get onto I-81 north and take it to Syracuse, then I-90 west to Buffalo.

Snow is a considerable risk on the PA and NY parts of your route. You will do yourself a favor by staying on the major highways, as they are the most likely to get cleared quickly. This route is boring as all get out, but it will be the safest. Drive carefully. If you do not have experience driving in snow, get off the road and wait for the roads to clear up before continuing.
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Old Nov 29, 10, 8:57 am   #3
 
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Apologies. I should have stated that I am leaving from Hilton Garden Inn Secaucus.
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Old Nov 29, 10, 9:04 am   #4
 
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Originally Posted by travelmad478 View Post
You don't say where in NJ you are starting from. Assuming it will be Newark, I would just do the simplest thing and take I-80 west into Pennsylvania, then take I-380 west/north to Scranton, then get onto I-81 north and take it to Syracuse, then I-90 west to Buffalo.

Snow is a considerable risk on the PA and NY parts of your route. You will do yourself a favor by staying on the major highways, as they are the most likely to get cleared quickly. This route is boring as all get out, but it will be the safest. Drive carefully. If you do not have experience driving in snow, get off the road and wait for the roads to clear up before continuing.
Thanks for the advice. By the looks of it I can still use the above route despite leaving from HGI Secaucus.

I looked at the route and it said that these roads were partial toll roads. Any idea what the cost of these tolls are? I dont mind the cost - I just want to make sure that I have the relevant coins/notes.
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Old Nov 29, 10, 9:19 am   #5
 
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Originally Posted by moore1984 View Post
I looked at the route and it said that these roads were partial toll roads. Any idea what the cost of these tolls are? I dont mind the cost - I just want to make sure that I have the relevant coins/notes.
I think the only toll part of the route is I-90 in NY. As per the NYS Thruway website, the toll will be around $6.50 depending on what exit you get off. There is also a toll over the Delaware Water Gap bridge going from NJ to PA, which I think is 75 cents. That should be it.
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Old Nov 29, 10, 9:29 am   #6
 
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Thanks for your help TravelMad.
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Old Nov 29, 10, 9:35 am   #7
 
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I just noticed on another thread that you are planning to be in Times Square in Manhattan on New Years Eve. Are you planning to drive to Niagara Falls on Dec. 29 and back to Manhattan on Dec. 31? Seriously? You said you looked at Google Maps for directions, but did you happen notice how long this drive is?
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Old Nov 29, 10, 2:15 pm   #8
 
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I just noticed on another thread that you are planning to be in Times Square in Manhattan on New Years Eve. Are you planning to drive to Niagara Falls on Dec. 29 and back to Manhattan on Dec. 31? Seriously? You said you looked at Google Maps for directions, but did you happen notice how long this drive is?
Haha. Yeah I know how long the drive is (7 hours). We are just staying in Niagara one night before flying from Buffalo Niagara to NYC La Guardia the following day. Thanks
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Old Nov 29, 10, 3:23 pm   #9
 
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Also, just for your information, once you get further north into NY state, particularly the closer you get to Syracuse, you in in the region famous for "lake effect" snows - dense snow squalls fueled by the warmer water of Lake Ontario (and to a lesser extent Lake Erie). I've driven this exact route in the winter, and one minute it can be sunny and then a few miles down the road you are in the middle of a snowstorm.

Not trying to be Mr. Doom and Gloom, but it is a phenomenon you should be aware of before setting out. These squalls are usually more intense early in the winter (i.e. December) before the lake begins to freeze.
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Old Nov 30, 10, 3:39 am   #10
 
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Also, just for your information, once you get further north into NY state, particularly the closer you get to Syracuse, you in in the region famous for "lake effect" snows - dense snow squalls fueled by the warmer water of Lake Ontario (and to a lesser extent Lake Erie). I've driven this exact route in the winter, and one minute it can be sunny and then a few miles down the road you are in the middle of a snowstorm.

Not trying to be Mr. Doom and Gloom, but it is a phenomenon you should be aware of before setting out. These squalls are usually more intense early in the winter (i.e. December) before the lake begins to freeze.
All information is appreciated. I have hired a Toyota RAV4. I am from Scotland so I am used to driving in snow. The RAV4 should also make things easier. Thanks
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Old Nov 30, 10, 6:02 am   #11
 
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I make this drive often - the 80/380/81/90 route is the best.

The only addendum I would make to the base route is to take I-690 in Syracuse to I-90, cuts about 5 miles off.

Now, there are some slightly alternate routes that will save you miles and tolls, but not necessarily time. This one will put you through Ithaca and is a nice drive during the day this time of year (at night there are a lot of deer). It will also put you right next to Taughannok Falls outside Ithaca, which is actually taller than Niagara (though about 1/1000 the water flow) and past the old Seneca Army Depot which means you will almost certainly see the white deer.

This route is, much to the dismay of the locals, a short cut used by truckers, and one I use all the time. Again, at night there are a lot of deer, but it saves you 21 miles and some tolls. Almost the same time, though. The route is...OK. There's a small stretch that gives you a great view of Skaneatales Lake. Everything beats the thruway, though.

Anyway you take will also have tolls on I-290 between Buffalo and Niagara falls on the Grand Island bridge, also.

Regarding lake effect snow that time of year - the most worrisome area for you will be Syracuse. They have a band that sets up and just pounds them off of Lake Ontario. Otherwise, believe it or not, the NY Thruway route for where you will be going is not too bad. Lake effect snows are wind direction dependent and very localized. I mentioned Syracuse already, when Rochester is getting pounded, it rarely extends down to the Thruway and has almost no effect on Buffalo. The only thing you need to watch is a strong SW wind which will bring the Lake Erie bands north and could really be a mess for about 20 miles near Batavia. But, the NYS thruway is extremely well maintained (at least as far as snow removal), so as long as you aren't in an "event", hit a rest stop for twenty if you get in the snow and wait for the plows to go through.
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Old Dec 3, 10, 9:07 pm   #12
 
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Originally Posted by mclee19 View Post
I make this drive often - the 80/380/81/90 route is the best.

The only addendum I would make to the base route is to take I-690 in Syracuse to I-90, cuts about 5 miles off.

Now, there are some slightly alternate routes that will save you miles and tolls, but not necessarily time.

[...]

Regarding lake effect snow that time of year - the most worrisome area for you will be Syracuse. They have a band that sets up and just pounds them off of Lake Ontario. Otherwise, believe it or not, the NY Thruway route for where you will be going is not too bad. Lake effect snows are wind direction dependent and very localized. I mentioned Syracuse already, when Rochester is getting pounded, it rarely extends down to the Thruway and has almost no effect on Buffalo. The only thing you need to watch is a strong SW wind which will bring the Lake Erie bands north and could really be a mess for about 20 miles near Batavia. But, the NYS thruway is extremely well maintained (at least as far as snow removal), so as long as you aren't in an "event", hit a rest stop for twenty if you get in the snow and wait for the plows to go through.
My experience, having made dozens of trips between Buffalo and NJ in all seasons and all kinds of weather, is that unless you're really interested in the scenery (which, I must admit, can be impressive around the Finger Lakes at the right time of year), you're better off sticking to the interstates. You might save a few miles by cutting across the hypotenuse of the triangle, but I've been stuck behind too many slow-moving 18-wheelers to recommend the shortcuts. Add in the possibility of snow, and there's really no reason to leave the highways. Having said that, there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking the 690 around Syracuse.

As for lake effect snows, the previous poster is absolutely right about Syracuse and Rochester. If you're heading to Niagara Falls, you'll leave the 90 and get on the 290 (just past the Williamsville toll barrier), which should keep you well to the north of the traditional "Snow Belt" near Buffalo. You'll then take the 190 north across Grand Island and into Niagara Falls.

In general, the farther north you go, the less you need to worry about snowfall. Most of the heaviest snow falls to the south of Buffalo. In the most recent storm, which shut down a section of the Thruway earlier this week, my sister, who lives in Depew, got about 28 inches. My mother, who lives 10 miles to the north, got less than an inch. Lake effect snows are funny that way.
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Old Dec 4, 10, 2:47 pm   #13
 
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NYS Thruway has an excellent website with variety of Traveler's Information, including alerts, updates & weather forecasts, current road conditions info for its entire length from NYC to Buffalo. Bookmark it & check it on the morning of your departure from your hotel, and you should be fairly well prepared. Google Map it and a virtual road driving trip will give you a good feel for what it's like to drive on it.

http://www.thruway.ny.gov/wtas/netdata/

If there are last minute changes, hazardous conditions, alerts & electronic signage at the Syracuse toll plaza before getting onto the Thruway will warn all drivers of what's ahead & options.

Full service rest stops with gas & food are spaced every 30 miles or so apart, and it's advisable to take a "safety break" and rest every 2 hours as the Thruway portion of the drive can be boring, miles after miles, leading to fatigue and tired/sleepy drivers are most at risk and prone to going off road and into the ditches.

As for Rt. 380/81 North past New Jersey into PA, then back to NY via Binghamton, NY area up pass Cortland, to Syracuse - ice & snow shouldn't be a major problem - Rt 380 and Rt 81 to the N.Y. State line are fairly hilly in places and could be slippery, but a well equipped RAV4 driven with care should be fine - maintain plenty of safe distance behind those truckers or 18 wheelers as some of them could have trouble "climbing" the slope when it gets icy and windy in snowy conditions. The problem sometimes is when you are caught in lake effect snow and/or blizzard-like, near zero-visibility driving conditions, the 2 lane highway is reduced down to a single passable lane and if the vehicle ahead of you stalled, everyone behind cannot go around it depending on the amount of snowfall and accumulation. Even for AWD/4WD vehicles in the hands of an experienced driver, equipping all 4 tires with dedicated snow tires and not the "all season radials" is the preferred way to go, stop, turn and brake and avoid spinouts.

Highway snow removal crews in these area are very good in clearing and reopening the roads within a matter of hours. Thruway segments near Rochester, NY and Buffalo, NY are the most unpredictable in terms of blizzard conditions that's been known to stall all travelers over the years - just make sure you carry spare water & energy/food bar in your rental vehicle in the unlikely case the Thruway is just down & you are "stranded" in traffic.

Check & ask the car rental place for a snow brush (free, if available) and check that the windshield fluid is fully winterized and fill to the top, and, happy winter driving.

Last edited by Letitride3c; Dec 5, 10 at 9:11 pm. Reason: Typo & additional "comments"
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Old Dec 5, 10, 5:38 am   #14
 
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I hope the OP checks in today...

The lake effect machine has kicked in across western NY for the next couple of days, so if you look at a weather map you can really see how localized, and generally north of the thruway, it can be.

Try The Weather Channel with this link or Weather Underground with this link. Both of those radar maps are centered on Rochester, NY.
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Old Dec 6, 10, 1:28 pm   #15
 
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Just make sure you are prepared to be driving possibly much longer than 7 hours. Be prepare for winter driving and make sure you have some emergency rations just in case and don't let the gas gage get much below half a tank if possible.

I am up in WNY for the winter. We are having snow now and it really adds to the drving time. Last week I90 was shut for a couple of days due to lake effect snow. We didn't get much on Grand Island but south of here was a nightmare.

You will also need $1.00 for the Grand Island bridge to get to Niagara Falls.
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