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Hitting the road for Thanksgiving? Expect plenty of company


If you’re traveling over the turnpike and on the highways to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving, you certainly won’t be alone.

According to separate press releases from AAA and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the next few days are expected to be the busiest traffic days in years.

AAA says an estimated 50.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, an increase of 3.3 percent from last year. Thanksgiving weekend will see the highest travel volume since 2005, with 1.6 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared to last year.

Travel times in the most congested cities in the U.S. during the holiday could be as much as three times longer than the optimal trip, according to AAA and INRIX, a global transportation analytics company.

“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of a busy holiday season, and more thankful Americans will travel to spend time with friends and family this year,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season.”

While AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the highest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2014, the vast majority of holiday travelers (89.3 percent) are still planning to hit the road. Automobile travel will grow by 3.2 percent this Thanksgiving, with 45.5 million Americans planning a holiday road trip. This November’s national average price is $2.54, which is 37 cents more than last November (1st-14th).

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday through Sunday, Nov. 26.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is projecting that 3.55 million cars and trucks will use the Turnpike from Tuesday through Sunday.

“We appreciate that family, friends, food and festivities are the focus of the Thanksgiving holiday season,” said Mark Compton, PTC CEO. “We also know that millions will be travelling our roadway to celebrate those traditions and have planned accordingly so motorists will not be detained by scheduled maintenance or construction. All lanes are slated to be open and additional safety, maintenance and state police patrols will be on hand.”

Beginning 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 21 until 11 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 26 all lanes in each direction of the Turnpike will be open and available to accommodate heavier traffic volumes. All scheduled maintenance and construction projects will be suspended during these times.

Tuesday and Wednesday are projected to be the most heavily traveled days on the Turnpike, with 725,000 vehicles expected both days. The periods of heaviest traffic volumes will be:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 21, from 3 until 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 22, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 26, from noon until 8 p.m.

Thanksgiving Day, will be the least traveled day with 510,000 motorists on the road, followed by Friday, with 515,000 motorists, the Turnpike Commission says.