Holiday traffic expected to be heavy
— More people are expected to hit the road in Maryland for the Thanksgiving holiday period than any time in the past 10 years, officials estimated this week.
Over 1 million Marylanders are forecasted to leave home during the holiday period, defined as Wednesday, Nov. 23, to Sunday, Nov. 27, reflecting a 3 percent increase and the highest travel volume since 2005, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the leading nonprofit automotive service organization.
The travel volume is projected to increase for the eighth consecutive year nationwide, as 48.7 million Americans are expected to journey 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving, representing a 1.9 percent increase over 2015 and the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007.
Officials pointed to the rising economic confidence of consumers as one of the chief reasons for the increase in travel.
“Many more consumers nationwide, and in Maryland, are expected to open their wallets for this year’s Thanksgiving holiday thanks to improvements in the economy during the
second half of 2016,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, public and government affairs manager for AAA MidAtlantic. “Rising wages, increased consumer spending and overall strength in consumer confidence appear to be the driving factors contributing to this year’s rise in holiday travel volume.”
Also contributing to the increase in travelers is the fact that Thanksgiving gas prices are projected to remain low. Last year, travelers paid the lowest gas prices since 2008 — when the average price was $1.85 per gallon — and although prices are creeping upward, they remain comparatively low.
Average retail gasoline prices in Maryland fell 2 cents per gallon in the past Traffic flowed steadily through heavy rainfall on Thanksgiving weekend on Interstate 95 near North East in 2011.
week, averaging $2.16 a gallon as of Sunday, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 2,167 gas outlets in Maryland. This compares with the national average that has fallen 1.7 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.13 a gallon.
Including the change in gas prices in Maryland during the past week, prices yesterday were 5.5 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 7.8 cents per gallon lower than a month ago. The national average has decreased 8.6 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 5.4 cents per gallon higher than this day one year ago.
“As motorists pack their bags and prepare to head out for Thanksgiving, gas prices are falling across much of the country,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “With a record amount of travelers, motorist will be facing congestion not only on highways but gas stations. But at least low gas prices have lingered for much of this year. Keep an eye on word from OPEC over the holiday weekend — there could be some surprises at a major meeting to decide the fate of an oil production cut.”
“But no matter what eventually takes place with the OPEC meeting, motorists are virtually guaranteed another year of gas prices that will remain well under all-time record highs as oil prices will likely remain confined between $40 and $60 for much of the next year,” he added.
About 43.5 million people are expected to travel by automobile over the holidays, including about 933,500 in Maryland, while 3.7 million nationwide, and 74,600 in Maryland, are expected to travel by airplane, according to AAA estimates. About 1.4 million nationally and 22,200 in Maryland will travel by other modes, including bus, train or watercraft.
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are projected to increase 21 percent this Thanksgiving, landing at an average of $205 for a roundtrip flight for the top 40 domestic routes. Rates for AAA Three Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to remain flat, with travelers spending an average of $155 per night. The average rate for a AAA Two Diamond Rated hotel has risen 4 percent with an average nightly cost of $123. Daily car rental rates will average $52, about 13 percent lower than last Thanksgiving.
With so many more vehicles on state roads, Maryland State Police reported that all patrol troopers will focus on enforcing impaired driving, aggressive driving, speeding, distracted driving and other violations that often contribute to highway tragedies. Additional troopers will be working overtime assignments funded by highway safety grants from the Maryland Department of Transportation Highway Safety Office.
Troopers from the JFK Highway Barrack in Perryville will patrol Interstate 95 from north of Baltimore to the Delaware line. They will implement Operation Keep It Moving on Wednesday and again Sunday, as they focus on keeping the interstate traffic moving expeditiously and minimizing delays caused by crashes and traffic violations. Troopers will also be working high visibility patrols at the Maryland House and Chesapeake House rest areas to deter crime and assist travelers moving through the state.
AAA recommends that motorists check the condition of their vehicle’s battery and tires, and pack emergency kits before heading out on a holiday getaway. Such efforts help to decrease the anticipated number of motorists in need, although AAA expects to rescue more than 6,000 motorists in Maryland this Thanksgiving, with the primary reasons being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.
Drivers can check travel conditions and delays before traveling. SHA provides up-to-date traffic and road conditions at roads. maryland.gov or chart. state.md.us. Traffic conditions are also available at md511.org, or by safely dialing 511 on your cellphone.