Cities could see record holiday traffic delays

By WILLIAM LEE
Chicago Tribune
November 17. 2017 4:07AM


The number of travelers hitting the road this Thanksgiving holiday is expected to swell to levels not seen in more than a decade, triggering what could be “record” traffic delays in some of the country’s biggest cities, according to the American Automobile Association.

In fact, some 45.5 million road-trippers will set off to grandmother’s house and other destinations during the Thanksgiving holiday, up from last year and the highest volume seen nationwide since 2005.

AAA defines the Thanksgiving holiday travel period as Wednesday, Nov. 22, to Sunday, Nov. 26.

But many holiday travelers are heading out a day earlier. In fact, Chicago is expected to log one of the worst traffic jams of any big city during the Thanksgiving holiday season on Tuesday afternoon, according to an analysis by AAA and global transportation analytics company INRIX. Motorists should beware that the worst time will be between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday, when holiday travelers are expected to join post-work commuters on Chicago-area interstates. Already long travel times could quadruple, according to AAA.

A robust economy is driving across-the-board travel this season, according to the 115-year-old automobile association. This year, about 51 million Americans will take planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transit 50 miles or more to their holiday destinations, a 3.3 percent increase over last year.

Most travelers — about 90 percent, or 45.5 million people — will be on the road, a 3.2 percent increase in automobile traffic over last year’s holiday, according to the pre-holiday analysis. That’s despite a higher national average for gas prices over last year; this November’s national average is $2.54, about 37 cents more than last November.

“A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry,” said AAA Senior Vice President Bill Sutherland.

Air travel is expected to see the biggest year-over-year increase, at 5 percent, with about 4 million travelers expected to pass through U.S. airports over the holiday period, according to AAA.

Amtrak is also preparing for the busy holiday week by, among other things, adding trains — with a plan to use every available passenger rail car in its fleet, officials said.


Public SafetyBusinessTravel and commuting

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