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Holiday travelers clog Union Station, roads, airports

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Photo - Commuters at Union Station on Wednesday. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Commuters at Union Station on Wednesday. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson

Whether it be by plane, train or automobile, more than 1 million travelers from the Washington area fled the region Wednesday for the Thanksgiving holiday.

About 90 percent of the 1.06 million travelers were hitting the road -- up 1.3 percent from last year -- and only 6.8 percent of travelers taking to the skies -- down 1.1 percent, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

And roads and airports showed it. Most major roads around Washington were reporting heavy congestion, whereas airports weren't as packed as many travelers feared.

"My dad told me horror stories, he put me into panic mode this morning," said Richard Landau, 32, of Bowie. Landau, his wife, Anne, 33, and their 16-month-old son were waiting to go through security at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Wednesday afternoon. The family was traveling to Miami to be with relatives for the holiday.

"We got here early so we wouldn't have to wait as long," Anne said. "It's moving pretty quickly."

Just after noon, lines were full at security checkpoints but waits were about 10 to 15 minutes. Earlier in the morning, lines were backed up 15 to 20 minutes. Some flights were delayed because of fog in Chicago, and the Federal Aviation Administration's airport status website was down.

But for travelers at Reagan such as Gina Aviles, 31, of the District, they were expecting much worse. She was flying to Long Island, N.Y., to meet up with family. She arrived two hours early and ended up hanging around the airport to pass the time.

"It's OK," she said. "It's better than missing your flight."

On the other side of town, Union Station was bustling. Lines at gates wrapped around corridors and were more than 100 people deep. There were some delays, too, which added extra frustration for the thousands of travelers taking to the rails.

For first-time train traveler Allison Crainer, 25, of Arlington, the situation wasn't any worse than airport lines.

"I figured it would be like this," said Crainer, who was traveling to Connecticut to see her parents. "When Washington is dead, you know everyone is in transit. I knew this many people would be here."

The hectic traveling wasn't a headache for everyone. For friends Barbara Braun, 66, and Bob Brown, 64, it was a chance for people watching. The duo traveled to D.C. from Denver for sightseeing last week and were joining Brown's family in Philadelphia for the holiday.

"It's really different, it's been a lot of fun," said Braun, who normally travels by plane. "I just like seeing all the people, you know, so I don't really mind the congestion."

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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