Traffic Expert: Holiday Traffic Easier, Lighter This Year
But Traffic Enforcement Up
Because there’s less road local road construction than in previous years, News Radio 780 Traffic Reporter Steven Hass believes traffic for this holiday weekend should be running smoother and faster than last year.
“The on-going construction list is much shorter this year than last, but there are still a couple of projects,” said Haas rattling off a list of construction and repaving projects around the area. “Of course, there are numerous suburban projects, but all in all, it is a lighter year in the construction department.”
In order to improve traffic flow over the three day weekend, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will halt all road construction projects and open all lanes where possible starting at 3 PM Friday.
“Memorial Day weekend historically marks the unofficial start of summer, with thousands of motorists expected to hit the road, joining family and friends in commemorative festivities,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. “To reduce potential roadway congestion, improve safety and traffic flow, IDOT is suspending all non-emergency roadwork where possible and also providing a list of lane closures in advance to help motorists plan their trips.”
But IDOT also wants motorists to slow down, obey the speed limit and drive carefully through construction work zones. The agency also reminds drivers work zone speed limits will still be in effect this weekend, even where no construction workers are present.
Construction work will resume at midnight, Monday May 28th.
In addition, according to AAA Chicago, travel volume is expected to be relatively flat in comparison to last Memorial Day.
AAA expects 1.6 million Illinois residents will be driving somewhere for the holiday–an only .7% increase over 2011.
“Americans will still travel during the Memorial Day holiday weekend,” said Brad Roeber, AAA Chicago Regional President. “But, many will compensate for reduced travel budgets by staying closer to home and cutting entertainment dollars.”
IDOT, State Police To Step Up Traffic Enforcement
The Illinois State Police and IDOT are planning on increasing enforcement efforts over the holiday weekend.
The agencies have announced the addition of hundreds more safety belt enforcement zones and stepped up enforcement patrols this weekend.
“With heavy traffic anticipated over Memorial Day weekend, IDOT and law enforcement are ramping up efforts across Illinois to ensure safe travels and motorist compliance to state law,” explains Schneider. “Travelers can avoid citations and substantial penalties by habitually adhering to all traffic laws.”
The State Police and other municipal and county law enforcement agencies plan over 1,200 safety belt enforcement zones and 1,000 safety checks for seat belt usage and impaired driving with 50% or more of these occurring during late night time hours (after 11 PM)–the the most dangerous time of the day.
“Illinois State Police are urging the motoring public to buckle up and drive responsibly when traveling during the busy holiday season,” said ISP Director Hiram Grau. “Every second counts when it comes to road safety and our officers will be enforcing all traffic laws and reminding motorists that seatbelts save lives.”
Both agencies are reminding drivers that Illinois state law requires all passengers in motor vehicles to wear safety belts–including those in the back seat.
Good News Gas Prices
Even more good news for weekend road trippers–gas prices are down.
According to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, the average price for regular unleaded gasoline is currently $3.89 per gallon, down 38 cents from last year’s price of $4.27.
While local gas tracking website ChicagoGasPrices.com has city gas prices at $4.13 per gallon, down 15 cents from 2011′s price of $4.28 per gallon.
Holiday Travel Tips
On the Friday before a holiday weekend, many travelers hit the road after lunch, causing a premature, slow moving rush hour with people trying to flee the city.
Haas, who’s been reporting traffic for 24 years in Chicago, always recommends hitting the road sooner than later before traffic builds.
But the trip back to town is not quite so clear according to Haas.
“As for the trip home, it usually depends on the weather,” says Haas. “If it is good, folks usually put the trip back home off as long as possible, leading to nighttime delays. If it rains on Memorial Day, the rush home is much more fragmented.”
Returning travelers should tune in to News Radio 780 and 105.9 FM on the trip home. Haas says he’ll be on duty that evening bringing motorists much needed traffic information “on the eights”.