Roads to be clogged for Turkey Day as 1 million locals travel

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Local,Transportation,Liz Essley

More than 1 million Washingtonians will travel for Thanksgiving this year, according to the latest predictions from AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The travel tracker expects 1,074,500 area residents will drive or fly 50 miles or more during Thanksgiving weekend -- about 1.3 percent more than the 1,060,300 who traveled last year. A solid majority -- more than 90 percent -- of those will drive.

Roads will be the most crowded on Wednesday, when 45 percent of drivers plan to head out for the holiday, and Sunday, when about 36 percent plan to return, AAA forecasts.

Area households will spend more than $100 on gas for their Thanksgiving journeys. The nationwide average price per gallon was $3.55 a week before Thanksgiving, compared with $2.75 for Thanksgivings in 2007 to 2011. The gas prices are lower than the sky-high rates of this summer but will still hit family pocketbooks, AAA said.

"Although they will be pinching pennies, folks will still be traveling this year," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Lon Anderson.

Extra police will be on the road in Maryland to help those 1 million travelers get to their destinations safely. Maryland State Police will have additional patrols to enforce traffic laws and look out for drunk drivers, officials said.

"With the increased traffic on the roads during this traveling season, arriving safely should be drivers' number one priority," Col. Marcus Brown, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, said in a statement. "There will be extra patrols and cooperative enforcement initiatives with local law enforcement agencies targeting drunk, aggressive, and distracted drivers, as well as those exceeding the speed limit, refusing to wear their seatbelts, or not having a child properly placed in a safety seat."

And drivers in Virginia will get a brand-new road to make the trip to turkey feasts a little faster: the new Beltway Express lanes opened Saturday, offering drivers with E-ZPasses a less congested commute in exchange for a toll between the Springfield Interchange and just north of the Dulles Toll Road.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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