AAA: With 2 million Ohioans driving for Thanksgiving, expect road delays

86 percent of Ohio holiday travelers going by car
Posted at 4:51 PM, Nov 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 09:41:41-05

More than 2 million Ohioans will travel this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA, and the auto club predicts the vast majority -- roughly 86 percent -- will make those trips in a car.

Travel experts predict this will mean increased travel times for most across the nation, especially in its biggest cities, but some relief should come with a slight decrease in gas prices, said AAA spokeswoman Jenifer Moore.

"This year, they are the highest they've been in a while, and so this decrease in gas prices bodes well for drivers and is something they can be thankful for," Moore said.

As of this writing, the average price of gas in Ohio was $2.39 per gallon, $2.37 per gallon in Kentucky and $2.40 per gallon in Indiana, according to AAA's gas price map.

The cost of gas isn't the only expense holiday travelers should look out for this week: A number of road construction projects throughout Ohio are currently underway, which could mean reduced travel lanes and increased travel times -- especially during the evening commutes in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

Traveling on Thanksgiving Day might be the best time to drive, Moore said.

"Thursday is actually a great day to leave because most people will already be at their destination by that time," she said.

Here in the Tri-State, the Interstate 71 and 75 corridors are both in the middle of makeovers, as well as Interstate 275 between Four Mile Road and the Ohio-Kentucky border at the Combs-Hehl Bridge.

Road projects currently underway in Hamilton County, as of Nov. 20, 2018. Click or tap the image for more. (Ohio Dept. of Transportation)

In Northern Kentucky, some major work on I-71/75 in Erlanger wrapped up for the season Tuesday evening, said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokeswoman Nancy Wood.

"Crews will be finishing getting the roadways back to their original configuration, so everything is back in place," Wood said. "I'm sure people in Northern Kentucky will be happy that project is out of the way for a while."

AAA has identified I-71's stretch through Columbus as another hotspot for congestion in Ohio worth avoiding if possible. Other nearby hotspots include Detroit's I-94 and I-75 corridors and Indianapolis' I-475 loop.

According to AAA's predictions, some of the nation's busiest cities could see travel times up to three or four times longer than usual. That includes some cities within driving distance of Greater Cincinnati:

  • Atlanta will see travel delays increase 2.75 times along I-75.
  • Washington, D.C., delays will increase 2.5 times along the Capital Beltway.
  • Detroit delays will increase 2.5 times along U.S. 23.
  • Chicago delays will double along I-94.

Ohio's 2 million travelers this year mark roughly a 5 percent increase from last year's Thanksgiving holiday. Moore said that's because people generally have more money to spend.

"More Americans have money in their pocket," she said. "They can spend it on vacations, so they’re turning Thanksgiving travel into vacation time so they can travel to go see their family and friends."

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and mobility for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur) and on Facebook.