WORCESTER — With millions of Americans expected to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, state officials are busy preparing for the influx of travelers in both our skies and on our roads.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Massachusetts Port Authority and the state police are asking those with travel plans to prepare for crowds.
“During this holiday season, individuals should leave extra time for trips and check the forecast for the routes being taken,” MassDOT said. “Use available technology tools and resources to make informed decisions, travel on public transportation is possible, and if driving, drive sober and hands-free.”
AAA predicts some 55.4 million people across the United States will travel 50 miles or more from home over the holiday, making this the third-busiest Thanksgiving travel forecast in AAA history.
“For many Americans, Thanksgiving and travel go hand in hand and this holiday, we expect more people on the roads, skies and seas compared to 2022,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “Travel demand has been strong all year and AAA’s Thanksgiving forecast reflects that continued desire to get away and spend time with loved ones.”
Aside from the congestion on the roads, a storm will be moving through the region starting late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
We’ll start the day with the potential for snowflakes in the elevated areas of Worcester County and the Berkshires. That snow is likely to turn into rain by dawn, with heavier precipitation falling midmorning.
If you’re planning to take the ferry over the holiday, Wednesday’s winds could impact service.
Sunshine will return Thanksgiving, but so will the wind. If you’re heading to a high school football game, you’ll want to bundle up, with winds gusts of 15 to 25 mph expected.
What will be the best time to hit the roads?
Gas prices are slightly lower than this time last year, prompting more people to get in the car over the holiday. The national average as of Monday was $3.30; the average in Massachusetts sits at $3.42 for a gallon of regular. That’s down quite a bit from last year, when drivers were paying $3.81 per gallon.
Looking at Worcester, prices are slightly below the state’s average, with a gallon of regular costing about $3.40, down about 40 cents from this time last year.
Transportation experts said the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is expected to be the busiest on the roads and suggest leaving before 11 a.m. or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heaviest traffic. On Thanksgiving, AAA said, the worst time to get behind the wheel is between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; and on Friday, the organization said you’ll want to avoid hitting the road between noon and 4:00 p.m.
“The day before Thanksgiving is notoriously one of the most congested days on our roadways. Travelers should be prepared for long delays, especially in and around major metros,” said Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at INRIX. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help minimize holiday traffic frustrations. We advise drivers to use traffic apps, local DOT notifications and 511 services for real-time updates.”
In an effort to help the flow of holiday travel, there will be no scheduled construction work on any major arterial roadways in the state, from 5 a.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m. Monday, Nov. 27.
Airports expected to be particularly busy
When it comes to the skies, AAA is expecting 4.7 million people to fly over the holiday. That would be the highest number of Thanksgiving air travelers in nearly two decades.
If you are heading to Logan Airport, you won’t be alone. The Massachusetts Port Authority is expecting more than 1 million passengers to pass through Boston’s airport over the holiday stretch. The agency is urging travelers to give themselves extra time to get through airport security.
When it comes to getting to and from Logan, officials are asking travelers to opt for public transportation and Logan Express service, which leaves from locations in Braintree, Framingham, Worcester, Peabody and the Back Bay.
The Sumner Tunnel will remain open the weekend after the Thanksgiving holiday with weekend closures expected to continue in December. The airport is also adding MBTA Silver Line 1 service to help with congestion.
Just a heads up, if you are planning to take public transportation Thanksgiving Day, the MBTA is making its $10 Commuter Rail Weekend Pass available for the holiday. Commuter rail service is operating on a weekend schedule, while other services with the exception of ferry service, will operate on a Sunday schedule.