CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two of the busiest travel days of the calendar year will take place this week.
The day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after see record numbers hitting the highways and byways every year.
The West Virginia Parkways Authority, West Virginia Department of Transportation and the West Virginia State Police held a joint press conference on Monday to discuss turnpike and road safety during the holiday travel season.
“We want to stress to everyone the importance how important it is to be safe,” Greg Barr, the West Virginia Parkways Authority General Manager, said. “10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on those two days sees some of the worst traffic of the year. There will be extreme congestion, not only on the turnpike but every road you travel on. Our advise to the patrons and travelers, plan it to travel another time.”
Barr advises travelers to, if possible, to leave for a Thanksgiving trip Tuesday, early Wednesday or early Thursday morning and come back from your trip on Monday.
“There’s going to be very little travel on early Thursday morning if you can leave that day,” he said. “When you come home, you should consider coming home on Monday. If you can take an extra day, spend another day with family. You’ll have a much easier drive home because Sunday’s traffic is going to be horrendous all over the country.”
A few more travel tips from Barr include to check your vehicle before you hit the road, don’t bother with your phone as a driver and be patient.
AAA is projecting that over 54 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase over last year and the most since 2005.
Barr said during the conference that during peak travel hours, such as this week the turnpike toll lanes could see around 400 vehicles per hour in one lane. That equals one transaction every seven seconds and 2,500 vehicles per hour going through all toll lanes.
With that much traffic going through, Barr announced a slight change to the toll lanes.
“During these heavy travel periods, we cannot keep a designated E-ZPass lane open,” he announced. “If we did, there are so many people coming down the road that don’t have transponders, traffic would back up to the two-lane highway.
“Five-hundred vehicles is a one mile backup for a two-lane interstate, one direction. So you can see how that could start backing up quickly with the numbers we are projecting of cars going through.”
Barr also added that during the holiday season travel, they will open tandem toll booths at the regular plazas going southbound. There will be three extra at Chelyan (Milepost 83), two at Pax (Milepost 56) and one at Ghent (Milepost 30).
Last week at the toll plaza at Chelyan, there was an accident involving a tractor-trailer hitting a toll booth.
Barr said there has been a recent uptick in these types of accidents and had a message for commercial drivers during this holiday season.
“Slow down,” he said. “Drive to conditions. If everybody did that, everybody would have much more time to recover if they got themselves in a bad situation. It would eliminate people getting hurt or killed, tremendous damage to facilities and vehicles getting hit. Speed in the main thing and is a bad thing, especially when you are approaching the toll plaza.”
“Our toll workers tell us that some of these trucks go through the lanes 40 or 50 miles per hour and they are designed for 5 miles per hour. That has got to stop.”