Holiday Highway Travel Expecting Worse Wednesday Yet

by Jana Ritter - Published: 11/24/2014

This week marks the annual Thanksgiving haul on highways across the U.S. and the weather forecast combined with the expected increase in holiday travellers has officials warning this Wednesday could worse than years past.

Holiday Traffic

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AAA Travel estimates that 46.3 million Americans will be driving 50 miles or more during the Thanksgiving holiday period – which is Wednesday, November 26 to Sunday, November 30. This is a 4.2% increase from last year and the highest Thanksgiving volume since 2007. In addition to the resurging economy, motorists will be paying the lowest holiday fuel prices in five years, two major reasons for the expected increase in holiday road trippers.

Jim Bak, INRIX traffic analyst, warns that according to the annual INRIX Thanksgiving Traffic Forecast, this year’s Wednesday pre-Thanksgiving rush hour is expected to begin two hours earlier than a typical Wednesday. INRIX advises motorists wanting to avoid the worst traffic should avoid travelling between 2:00-5:00 p.m., especially in major cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Portland, and San Francisco (which are all predicted to 25% to 36% longer Wednesday afternoon drive times).

INRIX also warns that traffic jams are expected to be worse on key routes to and from all major airports across the country. They give a more specific example of the Long Island Expressway to JFK taking at least 31 minutes longer between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. After analyzing traffic levels around America's busiest shopping centers, the company also predicts traffic congestion will peak between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. - something truck drivers should certainly keep in mind planning deliveries during this hectic holiday week.

The winter weather that made headlines in Buffalo, New York last week is making its way down to Maryland this week and the State Highway Administration is urging holiday travelers and truck drivers alike to avoid traveling on Wednesday if possible. Wednesday is expected to start cold with rain and then turn into snow by the afternoon, which will accumulate on highways across Maryland, Virginia and D.C. According to the Highway Administration, pavement temperatures are expected to be warm, but the prolonged precipitation will create slippery roads even after road crews apply salt or plow.

"Any precipitation in the Baltimore/Washington/Frederick metropolitan areas will create additional delays that were already expected to be significant the Wednesday before Thanksgiving," the state agency says. While crews will be doing their best to clear the roads and traffic patrols will be on standby to help stranded motorists, the Highway Administration is asking professional truck drivers to consider staying off the highways on Wednesday, if at all possible.

How possible is it for professional truck drivers to stay off the roads during the busiest day of Thanksgiving holiday travel? What are your plans?