Thanksgiving travel up slightly, spending down

2012-11-20T18:00:00Z 2012-11-21T23:54:03Z Thanksgiving travel up slightly, spending downKeith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com
November 20, 2012 6:00 pm  • 

Americans will be traveling a little bit more this Thanksgiving holiday but spending less on airfare and trips overall, according to the AAA's Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast.

During the five-day weekend, 43.6 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home, an increase of 0.7 percent compared to the 43.3 million who made trips last Thanksgiving, according to the forecast.

However, in another sign of Americans' belt-tightening, median spending per trip is forecast to be $498, a 10 percent decrease from last year.

"This follows what we have seen all year, with folks wanting to get out there and travel but still watching what they spend," said Beth Mosher, a spokeswoman for the AAA's Chicago Motor Club.

The decrease in average spending per trip is due in part to more travelers shying away from air travel to use their own cars or other modes of transport, despite the fact airfares are on average 11 percent cheaper than last year, Mosher said.

The 39.1 million people who will be traveling by automobile should get a much-needed break on gasoline prices, with GasBuddy.com reporting the national average for a gallon of regular has fallen 26.8 cents during the last month. In Northwest Indiana prices have fallen 11 cents per gallon in the last week.

However, gas prices nationally remain 6.1 cents higher per gallon than one year ago, according to GasBuddy.com, which operates more than 250 local gas price Web sites across the U.S. and Canada.

And on Tuesday night the gas price tracking Web site put out an alert that gasoline prices could spike as much as 15 cents per gallon in Northwest Indiana for the holiday based on price hikes that day at some gas stations.

With most large summer construction projects wrapping up in Northwest Indiana, traffic on local roads should be flowing smoothly.

One significant restriction that remains in place is the closure of Dock Street between Dickey Road and Canal Street in East Chicago, said INDOT spokesman Matt Deitchley. That stretch of Dock Street has been closed for the Cline Avenue Bridge demolition.

Motorists also should be prepared for some lane restrictions on U.S. 12/20 (Fourth Avenue) in Gary, for the road reconstruction project there.

INDOT will be imposing a construction moratorium statewide starting Wednesday and running through Monday, so traffic disruptions are minimized, Deitchley said.

In Illinois, most construction will be suspended but motorists can expect closed shoulders and concrete barriers with lane shifting at some of the larger projects, said IDOT spokesman Mike Claffey.

Those include the Interstate 57 reconstruction and ramp project at Interstate 294 in Markham; Interstate 55 (Stevenson Expressway) and Central Avenue in Chicago; and I-55 at Arsenal Road in the Joliet area. There will be some construction work in progress during the weekend on frontage roads for the I-55/Arsenal Road project.

The good news on the last project is that it should return to a normal lane configuration around Dec. 1.

There also is good news on the Illinois Tollway system that is expected to come in time for the long holiday weekend.

The Illinois Tollway is wrapping up work on the $112.6 million Central Tri-State Tollway I-294 project in Rosemont. It is expected to return to a normal lane configuration and normal speed limit this week.

Indiana State Police have joined with local police agencies across the state for their annual Safe Family Travel Campaign, which started Friday and will run through Dec. 2.

State police and local agencies will conduct high-visibility enforcement, including sobriety check points and saturation patrols targeting those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs as well as those not wearing seat belts.

Illinois State Police will be targeting what they call the "fatal four" this holiday weekend, which are speeding, no seat belts, distracted driving and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to State Police Sgt. Jose DeJesus.

Illinois State Police will be patrolling the interstates as well as doing roadside checks with the goal of reducing crashes and keeping motorists safe, DeJesus said.

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