More than 1.3 million Tennesseans will hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday in what AAA is projecting to be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since the auto group began tracking in 2000.
More than 55 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more away from their homes over the next few days, according to AAA’s annual report. The figure is up by 1.6 million travelers over last year and just shy of the record set in 2005.
“Millions of thankful Americans are starting the holiday season off right with a Thanksgiving getaway,” said Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel. “Strong economic fundamentals are motivating Americans to venture out this holiday in near-record numbers. Consumer spending remains strong, thanks to increasing wages, disposable income, and household wealth, and travel remains one of their top priorities for the holiday season.”
In all, 49.3 million Americans will make their trips on the roads, according to AAA. In Tennessee, 1.2 million travelers will hit the road this year. With that, AAA said roads will be the worst on Wednesday.
“With record levels of travelers and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX, a traffic data company. “Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week.”
While fuel prices have been up and down lately, they are now slightly cheaper than the national average at the same time last year. As of Tuesday morning, Tennessee regular gas prices were about $2.30, the same as they were a year ago. Average prices in Shelby County and Memphis were $2.34 on Tuesday.
Tennessee is one of this week’s cheapest gas markets, AAA said. The nation’s top 10 least expensive markets are: Louisiana ($2.21), Mississippi ($2.22), Texas ($2.25), Missouri ($2.25), Alabama ($2.27), Oklahoma ($2.28), South Carolina ($2.28), Arkansas ($2.29), Tennessee ($2.30), and Virginia ($2.31).
No lane closure, but added law enforcement
For the busy travel holiday, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has halted all lane closures on interstates and state highways.
“This is the most traveled holiday of the year,” said TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright. “Halting road work during this busy time will provide maximum capacity on our highways and help alleviate congestion, especially during the predicted peak travel days of Wednesday and Sunday. TDOT’s regional HELP Trucks will also be working throughout the holiday weekend to assist with incidents that may occur along the interstates.”
If you’re driving I-40, watch for Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers stationed at least every 20 miles. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and TDOT have partnered with law enforcement across the state for the I-40 Challenge, with the goal of having zero fatalities on the 455 miles of I-40 in Tennessee. Troopers will be out on I-40 and expect increased law enforcement on all highways.