“People are ready to get back to traveling,” Bevi Powell, senior vice president, AAA East Central, said in a news release ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
The uptick in travel comes even as gas prices have jumped by more than a dollar per gallon over last year, according to AAA.
The average national price of gasoline is $3.40 a gallon. In Pennsylvania, the average is $3.59 per gallon, with most locations in the Altoona area at $3.65, compared to $2.45 a gallon last Thanksgiving.
While air travel has almost completely recovered from its dramatic fall during the COVID-19 pandemic, AAA predicts that 90% of people will travel by car over the holiday.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike expects the Thanksgiving holiday period to be the busiest of the year with 3.15 million motorists on its roads during the six-day period that began Tuesday and ends Sunday.
The heaviest traffic is expected between 3 and 8 p.m. today with the lightest travel being Thanksgiving Day.
Overall, holiday traffic is expected to be up 39% over the same travel period last year; however, traffic is still down 9% from 2019.
AAA figures show 53.4 million people plan to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. That brings travel volumes within 5% of 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.
Turnpike Chief Operating Officer Craig Shuey said with heavier volumes of traffic, drivers need to keep safety in mind.
“Be prepared for volume related slowdowns, disabled vehicles and other roadway obstructions,” he said in a release. “Also, please remember to slow down and move over for vehicles on the shoulder such as law enforcement, turnpike first responders and fire and EMS personnel. Give yourself plenty of extra time to arrive.”
The Pennsylvania State Police will be out in force with the “Click It or Ticket” enforcement program. There also will be sobriety checkpoints, roving patrols and regular traffic safety patrols now through the New Year’s to crack down on drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol.
According to PennDOT data, during the 2020 holiday travel period beginning the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and running through Jan. 2, 2021, there were 1,000 impaired driving crashes, resulting in 26 fatalities.
Mild weather should help travelers this weekend.
“Today may be blustery, but high pressure should keep things dry and settled and calm. It looks pretty good. On Thanksgiving Day. Dry conditions will continue, but an approaching storm could impact travel on Friday. Friday will have a passing cold front with some blustery winds and a few flurries, but there are no major storms to speak of,” said Accuweather meteorologist Brandon Buckingham.
The public can check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles in Pennsylvania by visiting www.511PA.com. The free service, available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 1,000 traffic cameras.