Travelers pumped for Thanksgiving

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James Ehrisman of Ocean City, Md., pumps gas at the Smyrna Wawa Friday morning. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — The Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest times of the year.

Not only will grocery stores be busy during the holiday weekend, but the roadways will be as well.

This year is no exception, as the AAA Mid-Atlantic estimates that more than 128,000 Delawareans will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“This Thanksgiving, more Americans will carve out time to visit friends and family since 2007,” said Jim Lardear, director of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

“While many people remain cautious about the economy and their finances, many thankful Americans continue to put a premium on traveling to spend the holiday with loved ones,” he said.

Nationally, AAA Travel forecasts 46.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday.

With 300,000 additional holiday travelers above last year’s total, this marks the seventh consecutive year of growth for Thanksgiving travel and the most travelers since 2007.

The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday to Sunday.

Drivers nationwide continue to experience significant yearly savings in the price of gas and AAA estimates consumers are saving nearly $265 million on gasoline daily compared to a year ago.

Mr. Lardear said pump prices have fallen for 13 consecutive days, and AAA believes that average U.S. prices should continue to decline and could drop below $2 per gallon by Christmas for the first time since 2009.

As of late last week, Delaware gas average was $2.11, according to Mr. Lardear. It’s the lowest drivers will pay for the Thanksgiving holiday since 2008.

“Dover-area drivers are benefiting from relative savings in the price of retail gasoline with today’s average about 75-cents less than the same date one year ago,” Mr. Lardear said.

“One holiday gift has come early this year, as Americans likely will pay the lowest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2008.

“Nationally, gas prices have averaged $2.20 for the first two weeks of November,” Mr. Lardear added. “Lower prices are helping boost disposable income, and enabling families to kick off the holiday season with a Thanksgiving getaway.”

According to the Delaware Department of Transportation, during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2014, a total of 944,897 vehicle trips were counted at the I-95 Newark Toll Plaza, Biddle’s Corner and Dover locations on Del. 1.

DelDOT’s daily traffic count last year shows that Wednesday was the busiest travel day of the holiday weekend followed by the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day.

Last year there were 39,405 people, who passed through the Del. 1 toll plaza in Dover on Wednesday and 36,864 on Sunday.

“The toll’s price remains the same on the holidays,” said Sandy Roumillat, chief of DelDOT Community Relations. “Wednesdays have the heaviest traffic counts, then of course Sunday for traveling back home.”

Mr. Lardear said travelers should plan accordingly.

“The major routes and interstates will be busy for sure and, for some, unavoidable,” Mr. Lardear said. “If you look at the DelDOT toll data you can see that Wednesday and Sunday are the big travel days.

“Looking a bit deeper at Wednesday as the getaway day,” he said, “traffic is usual lighter in the morning and then peaks around the afternoon rush-hour into the early evening. Similarly, on Sunday the big return day, traffic probably peaks a bit earlier in the afternoon through the early evening.”

Mr. Lardear said people should travel on Thanksgiving Day, Friday or Saturday.

He also had one final piece of advice.

“But no matter when people drive, they have to be patient, courteous and distraction free behind the wheel as they will have a lot of company on the roads.”

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