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Navigating Thanksgiving holiday traffic

Nov. 24, 2014

Apparently, we’re going to witness some of the highest traffic volumes in seven years for a Thanksgiving holiday this week – something neither truckers nor motorists must relish.

[And I bet more than few truck drivers would like the ability to “leap” traffic jams, too, though perhaps not in the manner the Lotus Formula One racing team recently demonstrated.]

AAA Travel, for one, projects that 46.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday period – defined as Wednesday, November 26 through Sunday, November 30 – which the group says is a 4.2% increase over 2013 and the highest volume for the holiday since 2007.

Some 89% of those holiday travelers (some 41.3 million) are going to be making their journey by road, in no small part due to low gasoline prices.

Indeed, AAA Travel estimates that those “road trippers” likely will pay the lowest Thanksgiving price for fuel in five years; roughly a national average of $2.85 per gallon, which is 43 cents lower than the average price for Thanksgiving a year ago ($3.28 per gallon).

On top of that, according to the annual INRIX Thanksgiving Traffic Forecast, the Wednesday pre-Thanksgiving rush hour is expected to begin two hours earlier than a typical Wednesday.

The firm added that drivers trying to avoid the worst delays should avoid travelling between 2:00-5:00 p.m., with motorists and truckers alike in Los Angeles, New York, Portland, and San Francisco predicted to experience afternoon drive times that are 25% to 36% longer than a typical Wednesday afternoon.

"Encouraged by low gas prices and a steady economy, travelers will experience more traffic on our roads than in recent years when more people stayed closer to home for the holiday," noted Jim Bak, an INRIX traffic analyst. "While good news for businesses, drivers will battle more traffic heading out of town this year, particularly on routes near major airports."

Indeed, the company said traffic congestion this year is expected to be worst on key routes to and from major airports nationwide as travelers heading toward flights combine with car travelers to create bottlenecks at those locations.

For example, travelers headed to JFK via the LIE (Long Island Expressway) should allow an extra 31 minutes of travel time to get to the airport between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

INRIX also analyzed traffic levels around America's busiest shopping centers and predicts traffic congestion will peak between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Those are definitely data points truckers should keep in mind as they plot their routes during the Thanksgiving holiday week.

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