Superstorm Sandy predicted to impact holiday travel but not in Delaware

The busiest travel holiday is fast approaching, and AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts that 2012 travel in the region could possibly drop below last year’s numbers due to Sandy. That may not be the case for Delawareans though, according to officials who estimate that there will be a 0.5 increase in the state with nearly 119,000 Delaware residents hitting the roads.

It’s believed that many Delawareans will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend which is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday Nov. 25. As for how people will make their rounds on the holiday, 87 percent of Delawareans are expected to travel by car and just eight percent by air.

“Compared to last year, we are projecting relatively flat travel volume throughout the Philadelphia region, but it is too early to tell what the full impact Superstorm Sandy will have on local Thanksgiving travel,” said AAA’s Jim Lardear.

While storm damage as well as power outages and gasoline shortages in New Jersey and New York may have caused people to put their holiday plans on hold, AAA is advising travelers from the Mid-Atlantic region to consider a few options. AAA officials suggest people traveling to NJ or NY, check in advance to be sure power has been restored, and that there are no road closures near the intended destination. The other recommendation is to invite someone who has been affected by Sandy in NJ, NY and PA.

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“Many area travelers have been or have family and friends (in the storm-ravaged areas of New Jersey and New York) who have been substantially impacted. Therefore, the Thanksgiving travel plans of many could be altered or even cancelled altogether,” added Lardear, Director of Public and Government Affairs.

AAA surveyed a number of travelers to find out which days they would depart and return from Thanksgiving Travel. The survey revealed that 45 percent of travelers plan to leave the Wednesday before the holiday and 36 percent plan to return the following Sunday.

DelDOT’s 2011 daily traffic count supports AAA’s recent survey that indicates Wednesday as the busiest travel day. In fact, DelDOT’s report shows a total of 611,332 vehicles passed through the I-95 Newark toll plaza at the start of the holiday weekend in 2011.

Nationally, AAA projections are different than what officials expect across the region. Travel is expected to increase slightly nationwide with 43.6 million Americans on the road or in the air. That’s good news considering 2012 will mark the fourth consecutive year of growing holiday travelers since 2008 when travel was down 25 percent.

“In addition to the far-reaching effects of Hurricane Sandy throughout the region, travelers have spent the past year waiting for the economy to rebound and, in turn, ease the financial burden of high gas prices,” said Lardear. “The recovery has all but stalled and motorists have endured daily record high gas prices for much of the year, tightening Thanksgiving travel budgets.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic’s holiday travel forecast is based on historical data prior to Sandy hitting the Mid-Atlantic region.

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