AAA predicts most Thanksgiving traffic since 2007

(Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

(Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

With the holiday traveling season upon us, it’s a perfect time to explore the progress the state is making on improving those roads and what Delaware drivers can expect in the near future.

It’s been a wild year for Delaware drivers. In September, we saw thousands of pennies strewn across the highway after a truck headed to the U.S. Mint overturned on I-95. A truck hauling cows overturned in that same spot near Route 141 in October. Earlier in October, another truck carrying live chickens overturned on Route 1 near Smyrna.

Now this week, thousands of Thanksgiving travelers are expected to hit Delaware’s roads. AAA Mid-Atlantic projects a big increase in holiday travel this year. “More than 130,000 motorists from Delaware are expected to be on the roadways this Thanksgiving weekend,” said AAA’s Ken Grant. 

That’s an increase of 2.5 percent over last year. Those drivers will enjoy the lowest gas prices since 2008, especially helpful for Delaware drivers who are enjoying the lowest gas prices in the region since New Jersey increased its gas tax. “One of the things that we see as a steady predictor is gas prices. Gas prices are down this year as they were last year, you’re looking at a relatively better economy, so yes we’re looking at probably 14 percent of the state of Delaware traveling this Thanksgiving holiday,” Grant said.

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Nationally, more than 48 million Americans are expected to be on the roads, an increase of more than a million travlers compared to last year and the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007.

In Delaware, those drivers may see not see much construction work, because the Deparment of Transportation is suspending work for the holiday, but there is plenty of work to be done on the state’s roads.

Among work currently underway in Delaware, DelDOT is rebuilding the Rt 141 overpass on top of I-95. It’s a project that’s caused major headaches for motorists, but shouldn’t slow holiday travelers. The work is the latest project designed to improve the flow of traffic near I-95. Also on 95, workers have been replacing a bridge at the Rt. 1 and 7 interchange near the Chrsitiana Mall.

And while those repair and replacement projects are underway, the biggest road construction project in the state is moving forward just below the canal. The Rt. 301 project is the biggest road construction project in Delaware since the completion of Route 1 in 2003. 

Earlier this year, state leaders broke ground in Middletown on the massive project to extend 301 as a four lane highway over a stretch of 14 miles from the Maryland-Delaware border to Rt. 1 just below the C& D Canal. It’s a project tha’s been in discussed since the 1960’s.

“For years and years- and people have corrected me- for decades, we’ve talked about this, we’ve struggled with alignments, we’ve worked on financing,” said DelDOT Secretary  Jennifer Cohan earlier this year. “This project is clear, it’s crystal…we are ready to go, and we’re super, super excited about it.”

“This is a very exciting project,” said Gov. Jack Markell. “It is one that we have been talking about literally from my first day as governor and for years before that. It’s going to bring so many benefits to the area, less congestion, better safety, more economic development, that’s what I call a win-win-win.”

All this dirt moving and building is designed to eventually reduce traffic, especially truck-traffic, through the Middletown area by at least 20 percent. it comes at a cost of nearly 500-million-dollars and is expected to open to drivers in December of 2018.

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