HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — New Englanders hit the road, flocked to airports and filled bus and train stations Wednesday on their way to Thanksgiving gatherings, with AAA estimating nearly 2 million people in the six states traveling at least 50 miles to see family and friends.
About 1.7 million people in the region were projected to travel by automobile, while 200,000 others were flying to their destinations on the busiest travel day of the year, according to the motor club.
No major transportation problems were reported in the six states. Airport officials said good weather across most of the country, with the exception of some fog in the Midwest, helped to keep flights on time, but they urged people to leave plenty early because of the large crowds.
Matt Garcia of New York City said his bus trip to see family in Worcester, Mass., turned into somewhat of a nightmare. He said he booked his trip online and arrived at New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal at about 6:15 a.m., only to learn that the Greyhound bus he had signed up for didn't exist.
"We were essentially sold tickets to an imaginary bus," the 22-year-old public relations worker said after taking a bus to Hartford's Union Station, where he waited for his cousin to pick him up and drive him to his family's home. "Passengers were screaming."
He got more bad news in a text message from his cousin, who reported being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
A six-mile backup in the pike's westbound lanes was caused by an accident in Sturbridge just before the Interstate 84 exit. Mike Verseckes, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Highway Department, expected more traffic throughout the day and urged people to leave early. All toll plazas were fully staffed.
South Station in Boston was crowded Wednesday with thousands of travelers crossing through its vast central court. Food vendors worked briskly to fill orders, shoe shiners chatted with customers and chair masseuses tended to a steady stream of clients desperate to ease the stress of long trips on trains and buses. A string of armed security officers kept a watchful eye on everyone.
At South Station's Amtrak terminal, Anne Murphy of Gorham, Maine, was traveling with her husband for a Thanksgiving gathering in Gibbsboro, N.J. They planned to head back home Saturday to avoid Sunday's last-minute rush.
"I think we are pretty much done with ever driving from Maine to New Jersey — not just because of economics but because of the toll it takes on you to drive that amount of time," the 56-year-old landscape designer said. "It's much easier, you are much less tired, by taking public transportation."
The Massachusetts Port Authority, which oversees Logan International Airport in Boston, urged air travelers to arrive a minimum 2 1/2 hours before their flights because of the heavy volume. Most planes were almost full and near their load capacities, said Richard Walsh, an authority spokesman.
Airport officials expected 110,000 passengers to arrive at and depart Logan on Wednesday, about 16,000 more people than usual.
Passengers who got on a JetBlue flight in Boston on Wednesday got a scare when a small fire broke out in one of the plane's engines as it was taxiing at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Firefighters put out the fire at the gate, and no one was hurt.
In Maine, traffic on the Maine Turnpike got heavier has the day wore on. By early afternoon, about 4,500 vehicles an hour were passing through the York toll plaza at the southern end of the turnpike, above the normal 3,000 vehicles on a typical day. Turnpike officials expected drivers to make about 900,000 trips on the highway over the course of the entire Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
At New Hampshire's Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, most flights were at or near capacity and airport officials were advising travelers to arrive earlier than usual to park and get through security.
Assistant director Thomas Malafronte said the airport expected to see about 50,000 passengers this week, about the same as last year.
Some travelers also planned to spend some time skiing, although Thanksgiving is very early in the season. There hasn't been much snow, but it's been cold enough to run snow-making machines.
Vermont's Stowe Mountain Resort had one lift and 13 trails open. More ski terrain was expected to open on Friday.
"I would say the enthusiasm is high," resort spokesman Jeff Wise said. "We're expecting a lot of happy guests in Stowe."
Associated Press writers Mark Pratt and Rodrique Ngowi in Boston, Clarke Canfield in Portland, Maine, Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., and Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.