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Millions of travelers expected this weekend on Illinois roads and airports | Illinois


(The Center Square) – It could be a record breaking weekend for holiday travel in Illinois. 

AAA says Illinois is predicted to see 120,000 more travelers than last year, which was the previous record high. Spokesperson Molly Hart said nearly 90% of those travelers will be hitting the road, causing a lot of traffic and possible safety issues.

“We’ve got about 2.4 million people getting into the car to go to their Thanksgiving destination, and it’s the second highest since 2005,” said Hart. 

Hart said Wednesday and Sunday will be the peak travel days. For the return trip, she said the earlier you leave on Sunday the better.

“We recommend that you wake up and go,” said Hart. “The roads are going to be okay until noon and then you really want to avoid 3 to 5 p.m. when there is going to be a lot of congestion.”

The Illinois Department of Transportation announced that lanes that have been closed for construction will reopen, where possible, for the Thanksgiving holiday to minimize travel disruption.

Hart said motorists will get a slight break at the pump this Thanksgiving holiday. 

“The gas prices are actually looking good here in Illinois,” said Hart. “The regular gallon of gas today is $3.47. A year ago it was $4, so that is a 53 cents savings in our pocket.”

Illinois motorists pay the second-highest gas taxes in the country. According to AAA, they are the highest in the Midwest and the 11th highest in the nation.

Those planning to travel by air should experience improved conditions at Illinois airports. Last holiday season, mass cancellations crippled air operations and left millions of travelers stranded for days. 

FILE - Christmas travel, Chicago, O'Hare

Travelers walk to their gates at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.

During a news conference this week, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg touted improvements made to the air transportation system in the past year.

“So far, 2023 has seen the lowest cancellation rate in five years,” he said.

More people are also taking Amtrak, which reports a 15% increase over pre-pandemic Thanksgiving travel.

FILE - Amtrak

An Amtrak train heads to its destination. 

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