Expect Thanksgiving holiday weekend traffic to increase sharply this year, rebounding from a pandemic low in 2020.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) is predicting Ohio roadways to be busy with the highest single-year increase in Thanksgiving travel since 2005, with nearly 2.2 million Ohioans traveling between today (Wednesday, Nov. 24), and Sunday, Nov. 28.
AAA is predicting nearly 90% of these travelers will drive to their destinations, which will create congested roadways, especially today and Sunday in the afternoon and evening.
Locally, AAA is projecting that about 113,043 people in northwest Ohio will travel for the holiday, nearly a 14% increase over 2020.
The dramatic bounce back in travel compared to last year is in keeping with the findings of a new AAA poll of Ohio residents. Only 7% feel traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday poses a “significant” risk for COVID. This is in contrast to a similar poll last year when more than 34% felt holiday travel posed “significant” risk for COVID.
“Both the Thanksgiving travel projections and the results of AAA’s statewide poll tell the same story. Thanksgiving travelers see COVID in the rearview mirror and they are looking forward to returning to the pre-pandemic tradition of gathering with family and friends,” says Kara Hitchens, spokesperson for AAA. “Travelers should expect — and plan for — both the roadways and airports to be as busy as ever.”
During the busy holiday travel period, AAA expects to respond to more than 400,000 roadside assistance calls and recommends motorists’ vehicles are road-trip ready.
AAA also is projecting 193,330 Ohioans will take to the skies, a jump of more than 81% over last year, but still down nearly 4% from the number of Ohioans flying over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2019.
Another 42,000 Ohioans are predicted to travel by commercial bus.
Ohio motorists also will see slightly lower gas prices over the holiday weekend. Ohio gas prices have fallen 3.6 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.22 per gallon as of Monday, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 5,345 stations in Ohio.
Gas prices in Ohio are 1 cent per gallon higher than a month ago and stand $1.31 per gallon higher than a year ago, when gas prices averaged $1.92 per gallon in Ohio and $2.10 per gallon nationwide.
According to GasBuddy price reports on Monday, the cheapest station in Ohio was priced at $2.84 per gallon while the most expensive was $3.59 per gallon.
The national average price has fallen 1.9 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.39 per gallon as of Monday. The national average is up 2.8 cents per gallon from a month ago and $1.30 per gallon from a year ago.
“With oil prices plunging nearly $10 from the recent peak of $85 per barrel, motorists will start to see gas prices decline nationwide, just in time for Thanksgiving, and the decline could stretch for several weeks,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.
“It’s not impossible — so long as oil prices hold near these levels or continue falling — that the national average could shed 15 to 30 cents per gallon over the coming weeks, while some areas like California could see declines of as much as 25 to 40 cents.
“While there’s reason to be optimistic that the peak of gas prices will soon be behind us, the decline in the price of oil is likely reflecting the possibility of a coordinated global release of oil from strategic reserves. If that doesn’t happen, oil could again rally,” De Haan said Monday. “However, with COVID cases on the rise again, reducing global demand, it does seem the most likely outcome will be a drop in gas prices that could last several weeks.”
ODOT WORK ZONES
With the extra holiday traffic, the Ohio Department of Transportation will suspend roadwork and open as many state highway lanes as possible. However, work zones on Interstate 75 in Toledo, Dayton and Cincinnati, Interstate 70 in Springfield and Zanesville, Interstate 70/71 in downtown Columbus, and interstates 76 and 77 in Akron are among those where drivers could encounter delays.
Drivers should pay extra attention while driving through work zones and allow additional time to reach their destination. A map of all active work zones, updated traffic conditions and nearly 1,000 live traffic cameras is available at OHGO.com, or on the OHGO app.
ODOT will also use more than 130 digital message boards to reinforce safe driving behaviors like driving sober, buckling up, obeying the speed limit and dropping distractions.
Last year during the Thanksgiving holiday reporting period, there were 11 fatal crashes that killed 11 people on Ohio’s roadways. Five of those fatalities were the result of impaired driving and four were unbuckled when a seatbelt was available.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol reminds motorists to buckle up, never drive impaired and always follow traffic laws. Troopers will have an increased presence on Ohio’s roadways to promote a safe Thanksgiving holiday.
Williams County Engineer Todd Roth said Toledo Edison crews are replacing utility poles and local motorists can expect temporary road closures at various spots along County Roads F, G, 15.75 and 18 for the next several weeks.