One-in-Three Americans Is Hitting the Road This Weekend. Here’s How to Prepare.

Holiday traffic, by the numbers.

“From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific…” 

Looks like it’s going to be terrific around here too, for the lowest gas prices in seven years combined with back-to-back long holiday weekends are both contributing to what looks like a record-breaking year for holiday travel both locally and nationally, observers say.

Nationally, AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts a record 100 million Americans, or one in every three, will head at least 50 miles from home to visit friends and family over the holiday period stretching from yesterday to Jan. 3. That works out to an average of 8 million Americans traveling each day, says AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Jana Tidwell.

Within the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania region covered by PennDOT District 6, AAA predicts that about 1.14 million residents, or 28 percent of the total, will be traveling over the holidays, up 2.1 percent from last year. About 1.03 million, or 90 percent of those traveling in this region, will do so by car. “Traveling by car is more convenient for most people, and it’s more cost-effective if you’re traveling with a large family,” Tidwell said. Another 6 percent will fly, and the rest will be on trains or buses.

All that travel should keep area highways busy, starting around noon today, according to PennDOT District 6 spokesperson Charles Metzger. “We expect an earlier than normal rush hour, starting around noon today. Many offices are letting their workers out at midday if they’re working at all,” he said.

To handle those early departures, SEPTA has shifted departure times for some Regional Rail trains that leave Center City at evening rush so they will leave in the hour after noon. Information about which trains will leave early is on SEPTA’s website.

PennDOT estimates that travelers in the five-county District 6 region will log about 3 million miles on the area highways over the holidays. And if they’re delayed, it won’t be due to road work.

“It’s been standard practice for PennDOT to pull as much construction as possible off the highways over the holidays,” Metzger said. “Of course, where there are permanent shifts in traffic patterns, like on I-95, those altered patterns will remain in place, but there won’t be any additional road work going on.”

“This is the seventh consecutive year we’ve seen an increase in travel volume,” said Tidwell. “More people will be traveling this year than in any year since 2007, which was before the start of the Great Recession.”

Motorists hitting the highways in Pennsylvania can obtain real-time information on traffic conditions by visiting the 511PA website or by downloading the 511PA mobile app to their smartphones. The 511PA mobile app also offers real-time traffic information for highways in New Jersey and West Virginia (if you’re headed that way) as well.