Busiest Thanksgiving expected since 2005, despite rising gas prices

WASHINGTON — Even though gas prices have been rising, the Thanksgiving travel season is expected to be the busiest for the D.C. area in a dozen years, according to new projections released Thursday by AAA.

“Everything will be jammed,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend. “Expect absolute gridlock.”

Figures from AAA show that 1.2 million people from the region are planning to travel 50 miles or more.

“That’s 20.2 percent of the total populous in the Washington metro area and the highest total since 2005,” Townsend said.

It also represents a nearly 4 percent increase over the number of travelers last year, despite the fact that drivers will face the highest gasoline prices since Thanksgiving of 2014.

Nationally, prices at the pump this month have been, on average, nearly 40 cents higher when compared to the same time last year.

“Thanksgiving kicks off the start of a busy holiday season,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA’s senior vice president of travel and publishing. “A strong economy and labor market are generating rising incomes and higher consumer confidence, fueling a strong year for the travel industry, which will continue into the holiday season.”

Generally, the worst times to be on the road are expected to be Tuesday and Wednesday next week in the afternoon hours.

“It’s a gradual crescendo that starts the week before Thanksgiving,” said Dave Dildine, a WTOP Traffic Center reporter. “In the days before Thanksgiving, rush hours are longer and middays are heavier.”

According to AAA, the single busiest spot in the region will be I-95 southbound near Jefferson Davis Highway in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The second worst area is expected to be northbound on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway near Interstate195 in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, while the third worst will likely be I-95 southbound by Dumfries Road in Prince William County, Virginia.

“Conditions will vary,” Dildine warned, adding that rain could change everything.

“If you want terrible traffic around here — just add water.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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