Roads likely to be especially bad for holiday travel, research shows

Local News

LITTLE NECK, Queens — Monday began what’s likely to be the busiest travel week of the year, and certainly the busiest since the pandemic began. Now, two significant new pieces of information about travel in the tri-state region show why it’s vital to plan ahead when traveling this holiday week — especially if you’re going by car.

AAA commissioned a detailed study of projected traffic volumes nationwide for the busiest road travel day, which is Wednesday. The study, carried out by the research firm Inrix, found that out of the 280 busiest stretches of highway across the country, the most congested by far is anticipated to be the Long Island Expressway, eastbound, from around Borden Avenue to Little Neck Parkway, in Queens.

From 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the traffic volume in that section of highway is expected to be 482% higher than normal — the highest in the nation. 

It’s consistent with what AAA’s senior manager for public affairs, Robert Sinclair, said about the travel situation overall. 

“Ninety percent of holiday travelers are driving,” he said. “That’s the highest percentage I can remember.”

Drivers near the entrance to the LIE at Little Neck Parkway said they were both unsurprised that the section of their local highway was on course to be the country’s busiest on Wednesday, and that they would avoid it if at all possible. 

“You get massive traffic around here everywhere,” motorist Alex Hawkins said.

Bob Huron, another local car owner, agreed, as he waited for a green light at the Horace Harding Expressway.

“I’m staying off the road,” he said about his plans for Wednesday. “It’s crazy lately.”

In addition to congestion, there’s also a matter of overall quality of highways. On that issue, our region does not fare so well.

Among the 50 states, said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report, “New York is 46, and New Jersey is 50th.” 

The Reason Foundation, where Feigenbaum is also senior managing director of transportation policy, analyzed more than a dozen factors about each state’s highway and roadway statistics to reach their rankings.  

They concluded that the Garden State and the Empire State are each spending far more on maintaining and improving roads than the roads’ actual conditions suggest.  

Feigenbaum said that motorists should keep certain things in mind as they get out on the roads, based on his foundation’s conclusions.  

“Have the expectation that you’re going to have a rough ride,” he said, “and you’re probably going to have to do work to your car sooner than if you were on a smoother road.”

Monday also saw another busy day at New York area airports. Even though air travel is anticipated to be about 77% as busy as Thanksgiving 2019, last Friday was the busiest air travel has been since the pandemic began.  Even higher volumes are expected this week.

Meanwhile, on the rails, the MTA is expecting larger crowds this week, and is adding more trains on Wednesday, when travel is at its highest levels. NJ Transit is doing the same.  

However, ridership is still about 40 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels, so there are also incentives to take public transportation.  For instance, the LIRR is not charging any peak fares for the rest of the year. Riders will only have to pay less expensive off-peak fares.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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