Holiday Traffic A Turkey This Thanksgiving
That’s essentially what Chicago’s traffic was like today with hundreds of thousands of Chicago area residents driving somewhere for the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
Normally high holiday traffic was made even worse by rain and sleet that sporadically pelted Chicago area highways and streets just as the Thanksgiving holiday travel weekend kicked off, extending travel times everywhere.
The AAA Motor Club estimates 2.1 million people in Illinois will be on the road this holiday, a 12% increase over 2009.
This double digit increase, while significant and important increase in holiday travel volume, it comes after a tiny increase in 2009 (0.2%) and after a historic downturn of 25.2% in holiday travel in 2008, the eye of our present economic recession.
The forecast double-digit increase in Thanksgiving holiday travel would signify an important upturn in travel volume for the holiday after a year of negligible growth in 2009 (0.2 percent) and two years after a historic 25.2 percent decline in travel in 2008.
“While Americans remain cautious with household budgets and discretionary spending amidst high levels of unemployment, many are in a better financial position this Thanksgiving than a year ago,” said AAA Regional President Brad Roeber. “This improvement, along with a strong desire to spend time with friends and family, is expected to propel a significant increase in Thanksgiving travel.”
Thanksgiving, considered to be one of the most dangerous driving holiday of the year, also puts more people on the road than any other American holiday.
According to the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), just over 411 people died in car crashes over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2009, down from 507 in 2008, and 556 in 2007. The Thanksgiving Day Holiday is defined as running from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, to the Sunday after.
Holiday drivers should also expect the usual increase in traffic enforcement over this weekend and drive accordingly.
Thanksgiving Thursday and “Black” Friday will pose some unique traffic challenges too.
Steven Haas, a traffic reporting veteran of many years over at Newsradio 780, says Chicagoland will probably see some odd situations these two days.
“We will have some unusual traffic patterns on Thursday evening/Friday morning, with those trying to get “Black Friday” deals,” says Haas who will be on duty Thanksgiving day. “Of course, traffic volume will be huge at just about every mall or shopping plaza. I am still waiting to see the impact of internet shopping will have on crowds this year, as many retailers have really stepped up the offerings available on their websites. It will be interesting to see how much the internet cuts into the crowds at the malls.
We are also hearing about several stores that will be open on Thanksgiving Day, which have never been open on Thanksgiving before–this may also take some of the edge off Black Friday,” speculates Haas.
Haas also reminds readers of the Thanksgiving Day parade downtown Chicago Thursday morning. The parade steps off at 8 AM and is scheduled to end around 11 AM.
Drivers should expect many parking restrictions on, along and around State Street, the route for Thursday’s parade.
Sunday, the last day of the travel holiday, will have Chicago area highways jammed with motorists returning home from the long weekend. But traffic expert Haas, doesn’t think Sunday will be as bad as Wednesday was.
“From my previous observations of years gone by, the Sunday return never seems to be as bad as the Wednesday push out,” explains Haas. “I think the return trip will be staggered, which will be a big help. No doubt, we will have heavier than usual traffic volume on Sunday, but it’s not like a return from Memorial Day
or Labor Day.”
Experts recommend getting a very early start Sunday morning, or perhaps waiting until the evening and returning to Chicago after 10 PM to avoid the brunt of the traffic.
Make sure you keep tuned to the steady stream of traffic reports from our friends over at Newsradio 780.