OLD WESTBURY, Long Island (PIX11) — As travel intensifies on the busiest driving week of the year, inexpensive gas prices are making the experience a little easier on divers — but the weather is not helping.
A storm blew into the tri-state region on Tuesday afternoon and is expected to linger into Wednesday when the already busy holiday travel gets more intense.
That situation, combined with commuter traffic from people who still must work on the day before the holiday, makes for an exceptionally high number of vehicles on the roads.
Tuesday’s traffic volume served as a warning for what is to come, as one motorist, who gave only her first name, Barbara, pointed out as she filled up her tank.
“The lines today discouraged me from shopping anymore,” she said. “They’re just crazy.”
She had a firsthand account of the highways, and roads and streets leading to them, which AAA said was the case in these days just before the holiday. This is likely to be the busiest Thanksgiving for travel in years.
More than 55 million people are expected to travel by car, including Brianna Neura.
“I’m going to my mom’s for Thanksgiving,” she told PIX11 News. “She lives in Pennsylvania.”
The 55.4 million Americans, including her, will travel at least 50 miles for the holiday.
They can do so with gas prices lower than we have seen since Thanksgiving of 2020. On average, prices are 36 cents lower per gallon nationwide than a year ago, according to AAA.
Drivers like Mike Mortali have noticed.
“It’s definitely helped,” he said while pumping his gas, “and it’s definitely better than what it’s been.”
While that is true, said AAA senior manager Robert Sinclair, “It’s down by 30 cents,” in comparison to Thanksgiving 2022, “but it’s still not at a level that all drivers would consider comfortable,” he said.
He cited metrics that his organization has recorded in surveys, which concluded that for most Americans, gas over $3.00 per gallon is still not considered affordable.
“It’s still high,” said one driver at the Bolla Market gas station at the intersection of Old Country Road and East Jericho Turnpike.
Another motorist, Bill Boccio, echoed that point of view.
“Whatever the cost is, I have to pay it, just to survive,” he said. “Just build it into the cost of living, that’s all.”
Another key factor in pre-Thanksgiving roadway travel is the storm that has now descended on the Northeast U.S.
The worse weather is forecasted to increase traffic volumes that were already high.
Mike Mortali, who was driving his truck from Connecticut, straightforwardly described the situation, centered on travel time.
“The traffic out here today was a little tough,” he said, early Tuesday afternoon. “It took me about three hours.” When asked how long his commute usually is, he made clear that the holiday traffic made it notably longer. “It takes about two, two and a half” hours, normally, he said.
That higher volume, coupled with challenging weather, is why AAA and other traffic analysts are advising people to travel the way Brianna Neura will.
“Early morning,” she said. “I’ve got to help prepare, [and] cook.”
AAA recommends traveling on Wednesday before 11:00 a.m. and says that travel between 1:00 and 6:00 p.m. are by far the worst times. The organization also recommends traveling to destinations early on Thanksgiving morning when traffic volumes are at their lowest.
As for the return trip, AAA says that Sunday morning before 11:00 is best, and warns that Sunday afternoon could be among the worst, most congested travel of the ye