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Holiday travel expected to be second-highest since 2005 this year

Holiday travel expected to be second-highest since 2005 this year


This Thanksgiving, Region residents may get their fill of traffic and congestion.

More than 55 million travelers likely will travel more than 50 miles away from home this Thanksgiving season, according to AAA. It will be the second-highest travel volume for Thanksgiving since 2005. AAA started tracking it in 2000.

Expect record delays Wednesday, with commutes taking 2.4 times as much as normal between 4:15 and 6:15 p.m. in the Chicago metro, which includes Northwest Indiana.

It's going to be busy on Region highways like the Borman Expressway, the Indiana Toll Road and Interstate 65, as well as at airports like Chicago O'Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport.

About 1.6 million more people will travel on the highways and airports than last year, a 2.9% increase. Wednesday is expected to be the worst travel period with trips taking four times as long as normal, according to the global transportation analytics company INRIX.

“Millions of thankful Americans are starting the holiday season off right with a Thanksgiving getaway,” said Molly Hart, a spokeswoman for AAA. “Strong economic fundamentals are motivating Americans to venture out this holiday in near-record numbers. Consumer spending remains strong, thanks to increasing wages, disposable income and household wealth, and travel remains one of their top priorities for the holiday season.”

In Indiana, more than 1.2 million people are expected to travel, a 2.7% increase. An estimated 1.1 million are expected to drive and 106,000 are expected to fly, according to AAA. Car travel in the Hoosier state should rise by 2.7%, while air travel is projected to increase by 5.2%.

In Illinois, travel is expected to grow by 2.9% to about 3 million people visiting destinations at least 50 miles away. About 2.5 million will drive, while 246,000 will fly.

Nationally, 49.3 million travelers are expected to drive, 4.45 million to fly and 1.49 million to take trains or buses. Car travel should rise by 2.8% year over year, and air travel by 4.6%.

“With record levels of travelers, and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays,” Hart said. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week.”

GasBuddy estimates that 65% of Americans will travel by car for the holidays, the highest amount since 2014 and a 7% increase over last year.

Gas prices are expected to be $2.56 per gallon, about a penny higher than last year. About 30% of those surveyed said gas prices will impact their plans, a 2% decline from last year.

“Change is hard, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, many things this year won’t be changing. First, expect the mediocre Detroit Lions and their fans, including me, to suffer for a third straight Thanksgiving Day," said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. "Second, expect the national average price of gasoline to be in the $2.50s for the third straight Thanksgiving. And third, expect average gas prices to drop between now and Christmas, giving motorists something extra to be thankful for."


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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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